Canoeing to a Top-10 Finish
ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition recognizes NYU Tandon team's innovative design
After a sweeping victory that saw them take first place in almost every category at the Metropolitan Regional Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Concrete Canoe Competition in April, the NYU Tandon School of Engineering team spent the next few months readying themselves for the finals, which were held in June in Golden, Colorado.
Their preparation paid off: despite facing formidable competition from teams hailing from as far away as China, they enjoyed a top-10 finish overall, with a third-place podium appearance in the category of design paper — the painstakingly prepared document that detailed their design and build process.
Their canoe itself, an elegant 20-foot vessel dubbed Sprout, took fifth place in the major category of final product, winning praise for its artistic appearance and innovative use of materials. The team incorporated highly porous pumice and recycled expanded polystyrene beads to lighten its weight and reduce the use of non-sustainable materials; because ASCE rules prohibit the use of paint as a decorative element, the leaves, tree branches, and lettering that festooned the outside of Sprout were created using cork and the laser-engraving machines in the NYU Tandon MakerSpace.
“I could not be more proud of my team,” student project manager Bennet Gaochen wrote from Colorado. “We faced cut-throat competition and are returning to Brooklyn with a trophy thanks in large part to guidance from our faculty advisers Weihua Jin and Jose Miguel Ulerio. We also received a great deal of support from the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering and its chair, Magued Iskander, and I hope that we reflected well on the School of Engineering and the university as a whole.”
Endurance and sprint races are held as part of the competition, and paddling captain Cameron Haas acknowledged that it takes a totally different set of technical skills to race a canoe competitively. “The Sebago Canoe Club in Brooklyn trained us following the Regional Competition,” Haas explained, “and thanks to them, we improved our standing substantially, and walked away with the knowledge and experience needed become even more competitive next year.”
“The competition started out with more than 200 schools in contention — many of them much larger than ours,” Jin pointed out. “Only a fraction qualified for the nationals, and I’m thrilled that we were not only among those select few but performed so admirably.”
“The ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition is always a highlight of the year,” Iskander said. “Tandon teams regularly place well in the standings, and this year was no exception. Their solid showing is a testament to their inventiveness, hard work, and commitment to engineering, as well as to the dedication of their professors and advisers. The competition gave them a hands-on learning experience and a chance to apply the engineering principles they learn in the classroom along with important team and project management skills they will need in their careers.”
It Takes a Village
Designing, building, and decorating a canoe from scratch all while learning to race it makes for an ambitious undertaking, and many people had a hand in the process.
Halim K. Bas
Sofia Fernandez Santoyo