NYU Tandon Concrete Canoe Team Wins First Place at Regional Civil Engineering Competition, Heads to National Competition

Their Innovative Design for ASCE Challenge Features Digital Fabrication and Sustainable Engineering

Weihua Jin and students at ASCE

Professor Weihua Jin (center) and the team of seniors and juniors in civil engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering pose with their winning canoe

BROOKLYN, New York – NYU Tandon School of Engineering students triumphed at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Metropolitan Regional Concrete Canoe Competition on April 30, securing first place in all four competition categories. The NYU Tandon team will advance to the 2017 ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition in June.

The ASCE Concrete Canoe competition provides students with a hands-on learning experience in creating, building, and racing a boat constructed from a surprising source: concrete. The competition encourages students to discover concrete’s versatility and explore innovative concrete technology.

“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,“ said Magued Iskander, chair of the NYU Tandon Civil and Urban Engineering Department.

For the first time in NYU Tandon history, the NYU Tandon ASCE Concrete Canoe team placed first in all categories of the regional competition, hosted this year by Rutgers University. They took top honors for the design paper detailing their design and build process, the oral presentation to the competition’s judges and the final product. In the racing category, which includes both endurance and sprint, the NYU Tandon students won the women’s and men’s sprint and men’s endurance races. The team scored second place in the women’s endurance race and the co-ed sprint.

NYU Tandon won first place for their design at the 2017 ASCE Regional Concrete Canoe Competition

NYU Tandon won first place for their design at the 2017 ASCE Regional Concrete Canoe Competition

NYU Tandon competed against teams from Rutgers, the City College of New York, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Manhattan College, Rowan University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the Technical College of New Jersey. The NYU Tandon team will represent the metropolitan region at the national competition for the sixth time, on June 17-19, 2017 at the Colorado School of Mines.

In past competitions, NYU Tandon’s design centered on sustainability and implemented recycled glass as an aggregate in the ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC). This sustainable approach reduced the amount of pollutants produced in manufacturing concrete, yet it also generated a heavier, though still buoyant, canoe. 

“This year, we set a goal to minimize the weight. By removing the glass and heavy particles, we returned to the basics of what concrete is,” project manager Bennet Gaochen (’17) said of the winning design, named Sprout.

New ASCE stipulations required an aggregate not created solely for concrete production, and the team selected pumice with its highly porous quality to create a lightweight and low-density mixture. Inspired by nature, the students’ design emulated animal bone structure. One layer of concrete mimicked a bone’s rigid exterior tissue, and it surrounded a core layer made with recycled expanded polystyrene beads (reminiscent of bone’s honeycomb interior structure). The students chose this core material because it displaced volume while reducing the use of concrete and other materials whose manufacturing processes produce high levels of carbon dioxide emissions.

ASCE rules also required that students’ designs refrain from using paint, which encouraged the team to venture into digital fabrication. The leaves, tree branches, and lettering decorating the boat’s exterior were created using the laser-engraving machines in the NYU Tandon MakerSpace to cut stencils from cork that were then glued onto the boat’s mold and covered in concrete, leaving a debossed and colorful relief.

The NYU Tandon ASCE student chapter was led to victory by faculty adviser and industry professor Weihua Jin, currently conducting innovative research into sustainable cement-based materials and digital fabrication of concrete, and supported by NYU Tandon ASCE faculty adviser and industry professor Jose Miguel Ulerio.

Captains include Gaochen, Daniel Bressler, Priscilla Peguero, Tulip Kabir, Kyra Friend, and Cameron Haas – all undergraduates in civil and urban engineering at NYU Tandon – as well as Sofia Fernandez Santoyo and Yousteena Bocktor, visiting students in mechanical and civil engineering, respectively, from NYU Abu Dhabi. Paddlers included Gaochen, Friend, Haas, Hassan Abdelkhalek,  Nader Ahmed, Elizabeth Cass, and Sage Scheiwiller; other team members are Nathaniel Evelkin, Isaiah Mwamba, Joel Mtwali, Roman Haberli, Chu Jie Zhang, Cece Wu, Rosa Batres, Sadia Farnace, and Carol Shiyakhova. This year’s team was also multidisciplinary, including students from  mechanical, civil, and chemical and biomolecular engineering.  Renata Matarazzo and Talia Milavetz, journalism students from the NYU College of Arts and Science, created a video for the team:

“As a faculty advisor to the team since 2008, I am very pleased that our team made history by winning in all four categories in the regional competition,” Jin said. “The team really impressed the judges with innovations that we introduced. Making concrete crack-free has been an engineering challenge. However, the team learned from my research and was able to produce a surprisingly glossy and smooth concrete canoe without any noticeable cracks to date. We are likely going to be the first one at the nationals to demonstrate 3D printing technology in concrete canoe construction. Innovation is the hallmark of NYU Tandon and makes our canoe stand out.”

Note: Images available at http://dam.engineering.nyu.edu/?c=1946&k=083d562309

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.