After a long year’s worth of hard work and dedication, the San José State University’s Concrete Canoe Team thoroughly impressed judges and competitors at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Mid-Pacific Student Conference. After ranking in the bottom half for five years in a row, the Concrete Canoe Team emerged on top as the second place winner during last Spring’s competition.
ASCE also hosts the Steel Bridge, Geo-Wall, and Water Treatment competitions, but Concrete Canoe is the largest competition. Every year, the competition takes place from Thursday to Saturday. On Friday, each team displays their canoe. Saturday morning is reserved for racing, and the results are released at Saturday night’s banquet.
"The last time we got 2nd place was in 2010," said Hester Yu, Project Manager of the Concrete Canoe team. "They went to nationals. We didn’t this year, but we still beat schools like U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, and Tongji. Tongji is the highest ranked civil engineering school in China, so we are really happy we placed where we did."
One of the biggest challenges of the competition is time. It is a year-long project that starts off with designing the shape of canoe and structural analysis. The team then builds molds, designs the concrete, then designs the reinforcement, and finally pours the concrete. The team leads expected to put in a lot of time, but not as much as it did to actually perform the work.
Yu has had a lot of experience with Concrete Canoe. She joined her first year as a paddler, and remained active throughout her sophomore year. However, after taking a two-year break, Yu came back stronger than ever, becoming project manager for this year’s competition.
"Everyone trusted that she knew what she was talking about and knew what she was going to do," said Bianca Guzman, construction lead and treasurer for the team. "Luckily after doing Concrete Canoe, she was in charge of Water Treatment. So for the competition she was also project manager, which manages everything from dealing with money and team, getting the project done, and delivering the project till the very end. We went from a team of 7 people to more than 25 people, to Concrete Canoe. That’s a difference of a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars."
In the past, Concrete Canoe was strictly for civil engineers. However, both Yu and Guzman credit the success of this year’s team to the inclusion of all engineering departments.
"The club has evolved from being the civil competition to being a nice competition team that anyone can enjoy," Guzman said. "It gives students the real world experience where you’re getting to work with people not just in your major, but with multiple majors. You deal with a lot of elements and a lot of different people, but you are all working towards that common goal.
On top of the 2nd place win, the team also received significant recognition from the competition judges after the races. It is common for a concrete canoe to have a structural or micro cracks after the stress of transporting and racing. However, SJSU’s canoe made it through the final competition with just a few microcracks.
Though the team did not go to Nationals this year, Yu is still excited and grateful for this experience. "The most important thing is to always remember to have fun with it," said Yu. "Yes, it’s a competition, and there are deadlines, but in the end, you only really remember the good memories you have from it and all the fun you had. Sticking around for a late night at school, all the hard hours, the late nights, the little sleep you get. It’s all worth it."
The College of Engineering is proud of the Concrete Canoe team’s success, and we cannot wait to see what great things the team will accomplish this upcoming academic year.