NYU-Poly Students Row Their Boat to Victory

NEW YORK, April 30, 2013 – Proving that innovative engineering can overcome specific weight, students of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) this weekend steered their concrete canoe to one first-place finish while taking first place for constructing the most technically sound and aesthetically pleasing canoe.

As 13 student chapters gathered on NYU-Poly’s downtown Brooklyn campus last weekend for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) New York Metropolitan Regional Conference of Student Chapters, the concrete canoe-building teams competed at Cooks Pond in Denville, New Jersey.  NYU-Poly’s four-person co-ed team won its race with a 3-second margin over the second-place team. The race win was a particularly meaningful triumph: NYU-Poly racers were pitted against teams with access to pristine bodies of water and, as Professor Weihua Jin, who advised the team, noted, “We did not even have a swimming pool to practice in.”

In each year that Jin has overseen the building of concrete canoes, the NYU-Poly teams have taken first place for engineering design and construction principles, which comprise 25 percent of each team's total team score. Points are also assigned for a technical design report detailing the planning, development, testing and construction of the canoe, as well as a formal business presentation highlighting the canoe's design, construction, racing ability and other innovative features. The teams also win points for the performance of the canoe and the paddlers in five different race events. The NYU-Poly team finished in third place overall.

The competition provides students with a practical application of the engineering principles they learn in the classroom, along with important team and project management skills they will need in their careers. The event challenges the students' knowledge, creativity and stamina, while showcasing the versatility and durability of concrete as a building material.

“Here at NYU-Poly, we are not just satisfied with making a concrete canoe light and strong. We are also making impacts,” Jin explained.  “Our 2008 canoe “Osiris” was constructed with 60 percent recycled glass and was the first one in the history of the ASCE concrete canoe competition to demonstrate sustainability.  This year, our students explored a new dimension of concrete: artistry. They used concrete as a canvas and stained it with environmentally friendly mineral colors, turning the canoe into a beautiful art piece. This is amazing. It is not your father’s concrete anymore. ”

More than 20 undergraduate NYU-Poly students participated in this year’s Concrete Canoe Contest team, with captains Elizabeth Schrandt and Christine Ng. 

Back at NYU-Poly’s campus, another of the ASCE Student Chapters’ annual favorites, the Steel Bridge Competition, led by team co-captains Jorge Garcia and Sojol Howlader, challenged student engineers with similar project and product presentations, as well as tested the load-bearing capacity of actual bridges built to this year’s specifications. Professors Roula Maloof and Alfoso Whu advised this year’s team of NYU-Poly students, who even executed their own steel fabrication.