Engineering students find success in concrete canoe competition

Photo Courtesy of Ed Jankun.

Most people would not want to find themselves a passenger in a boat made of concrete — particularly one that weighs more than 500 pounds.

For a few Marquette College of Engineering students, however, it was a challenge taken happily.

This weekend, students from Marquette’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers participated in the 2011 Great Lakes Student Conference, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The team, which consisted of 24 members, earned third place honors in the design and “finished product” categories.

Students participating in the conference are given the chance to hone their engineering skills while competing against other schools with various engineering-specific design challenges, like building a steel bridge and a concrete canoe.

The canoe creators were able to mix a special blend of concrete that allowed the canoe to float.

The conference featured 18 teams from universities around the Midwest, including Purdue University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

According to Ryan Chapman, a senior in the College of Engineering, teams participating in the conference can compete in the steel bridge competition, the concrete canoe competition or both. This year, Marquette chose to only compete with the concrete canoe. He added that the canoe competition consists of endurance races in the morning, which requires rowers to navigate an obstacle course of buoys, and sprinting races in the afternoon.

Tom Shea, a senior in the College of Engineering, said teams are judged by four equally weighted categories: design, oral presentation, race time and final product. The team does not yet know its overall ranking among the competitors, because only the top three winners are announced at the competition.

“Since we ranked third in two of the four categories, we’re hoping for a top-5 (overall) finish this year,” Shea said.

In past years, Marquette has done well in the competition. The team has been given as high as third place overall, said Jane Singelyn, a senior in the College of Engineering and president of Marquette’s American Civil Society of Engineers chapter.

Singelyn said the team has spent most of this year working on the canoe. Construction began on it early last semester and was finished in late February.

“There’s the design, creating the mold to pour the canoe in, as well as designing the concrete,” she said. “There’s a lot of prep work.”

The canoe, which is called Numen Flumenque after Marquette’s logo, will hang in the future Discovery Learning Complex upon its completion next year. It will serve as a model and practice canoe for future builders.

“It’s going to be really helpful for future canoe builders to be able to practice with a real boat,” Singelyn said. “They can be even more successful next year.”