Login | September 21, 2017

UA students take 3rd at canoe building/racing competition

This year The University of Akron's Concrete Canoe team made it to the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition in Golden, Colorado, competing in several different events against 19 other student teams from around the country, Canada and China. The UA team’s 197-pound, 20-foot canoe dubbed “Wright Way,” earned them first place for innovation, with an overall third place showing. Pictured here from the front of the canoe to the back are Micalah Yovanovich and captain Jessica Givins. (Photo courtesy of  Barry Staver).

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: July 10, 2017

Many college students participate in sports, but not all activities are designed to improve fitness and give the participants a leg up in their specific major at the same time.

But that’s exactly what students who join The University of Akron’s Concrete Canoe team can expect.

The student-run extracurricular program gives members a chance to construct their own concrete canoe from start to finish, work on paddling skills and compete in regional and national competitions.

This year The University of Akron (UA) team made it to the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition in Golden, Colorado, competing in several different events against 19 other student teams from around the country, Canada and China.

The UA team qualified after winning the Ohio Valley Student Conference regional competition in early April held at The Ohio State University in Columbus, where they defeated more than a dozen teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

In all 205 teams competed in regional competitions, hoping to make it to Colorado.

The national event ran from June 17 to 19 at the Colorado School of Mines. The UA team’s 197-pound, 20-foot canoe dubbed “Wright Way,” earned them first place for innovation, with an overall third place showing.

A team from California Polytechnic State University won the competition.

The UA team walked away with $1,500 and a trophy.

But participants like team captain Jessica Givins said the chance to test out classroom theory and network with like-minded individuals and businesses in the industry were the real payoffs.

“There are so many levels to this competition,” said Givins, a civil engineering student who graduated in May. “We learn construction and design skills, management, writing and presentation.

“We’re basically an engineering design team that creates a canoe.”

Organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this year marked the 30th annual national competition, but Givins said the event dates back to the early 1970s.

“The first official national competition was held in 1988,” said Givins. “The competition was held prior to that but there was no committee or ‘official’ competition. 

“Back then only a few schools had teams and our university was one of them,” said Givins. “It has grown tremendously since then.

“We are judged on four components—the design paper, oral presentation, the final product display and the races. Each category is worth 25 percent.”

Run through UA’s College of Engineering, the Concrete Canoe program is one of more than a half dozen design teams in which students can participate.

The Concrete Canoe program primarily consists of civil engineering majors, some of who are part of the school’s five-year Bachelor of Science cooperative education program, which provides on-the-job experience.

Although Concrete Canoe is a voluntary, student-run activity, there is a faculty advisor who can help team members troubleshoot problems and provide guidance on how to navigate the university’s administrative policies.

This year Marcia Belcher, a professor and interim chair of the Engineering & Science Technology Department, served in that role.

“The students put in over 2,000 hours a year between designing and practicing for the competitions,” said Belcher. “They can bounce ideas off me, but they don’t have to follow my advice.

“This year the canoe was absolutely flawless, even one of the judges at the national competition commented on that,” she said. “They did a fabulous job on the lettering and artwork. It was very creative and innovative.”

Thirteen UA team members went to the nationals, including seven who served as paddlers.

Givins was among those who put her paddling skills to the test.

“It was a great experience,” said Givins, who joined the team four years ago.

“Initially I was looking to stay active in school,” she said. “I had played sports in high school and I thought paddling would be cool. It was also related to my major.

“I got more involved each year that I participated,” said Givins, 23. “It turned out to be an important networking tool since we deal with a lot of industry suppliers in order to get our materials,” said Givins, who accepted a project management position in the Vancouver, Washington office of the construction company Kiewit Corporation.

Civil engineering major and paddler Logan Jacobs said he joined the team because he enjoys outdoor activities.

“It taught me time management skills because I had to balance my courses with working on the project,” said Jacobs. “I especially enjoyed the woodworking involved in creating the displays.

“The team created a display table and stands for the canoe out of wood this year. They were part of our final product score.

“I’ve also met some suppliers and gained a better understanding of what goes into concrete design,” said Jacobs, 21.

Elaina Patitsas has participated for the past three years.

“I got involved in my freshman year because I thought it would be cool to make a canoe out of concrete, which typically would not float,” said Patitsas, 21,who starts her fourth year of the civil engineering bachelor’s degree program in the fall.

“I wanted to get involved in something that would teach me about engineering in a way my coursework didn’t,” she said. “It’s definitely helping to prepare me for a career in engineering.”


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