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Concrete canoe team floats new design at student competition

By Kaitor Kposowa


Civil engineering students from Ohio University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers didn’t crack under the pressure when they floated a new concrete canoe design in the 2013 ASCE Ohio Valley Student Conference’s annual Regional Conference held at Cleveland State University April 4-6.

“This was our fourth year competing in the concrete canoe competition,” said team advisor Deborah McAvoy, associate professor of civil engineering in the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology. “Great strides were accomplished – for the first time, the canoe looks the same upon return to OHIO as when it left.”

Last year, the canoe developed several large cracks during the transportation to the competition, although the team was able to make some repairs and compete in all the races. This year, the team’s canoe didn’t suffer any structural problems.

“Overall the team did a great job,” said team captain Brandon Totman, a senior. “We took on a lot more work this year and it ended up being a great success.”


Fore one, the team changed the mold and mix they used the past three years. They created an injection mold with “male” and “female” mold parts that fit together, enabling team members to pour concrete into it versus placing the concrete on the mold by hand.

“This new design reduced the time it took the pour the concrete from 8 hours to 4 hours,” said Totman. “The new mold also reduced the cold joints that often lead to cracking.”

The team’s canoe, dubbed The Yellow Submarine, was named for the 1966 Beatles song. Students made a Beatles-inspired banner to display during the competition, as well as a set of cardboard and papier-mâché periscopes. Their banner was based off the cover of the band’s 1969 album, Abbey Road.

They were judged on that display, as well as their final product, oral presentation, and a technical paper. After the display judging, students had to carry the canoe across a parking lot and down to Medina, Ohio’s Hinckley Lake for swamp testing, in which they had to fill the canoe completely with water to prove its seaworthiness.

The race itself comprised 600-meter men’s and women’s endurance races, which included a slalom, 200-meter men’s and women’s sprints with a single turn of 180 degrees, and a 400-meter co-ed race.

In addition to the canoe competition, the conference also featured a steel bridge, surveying and environmental competitions and technical paper presentation. Ohio University’s team of 26 students competed against seven other schools.

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