ASCE chapter gearing up to host concrete canoe competitions

// Civil & Environmental Engineering

Tags: 2020, News, students

UW-Madison students participating in the 2017 National Concrete Canoe Competition in Golden, Colorado. Photo by Barry Staver for the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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Badger engineers will welcome peers from across the Midwest and the nation as they host a pair of American Society of Civil Engineers concrete canoe competitions in spring and summer 2020.

UW-Madison’s ASCE student chapter will host the ASCE Great Lakes Student Conference regional competition on April 2-4. The chapter will host the 2020 ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition on June 13-15. Nineteen teams are currently slated to compete in the regional competition in April, while as many as 25 teams may compete in the national competition in June.

Teams build canoes for the competitions and are judged on their design paper, an oral presentation, final product and races on the water. UW-Madison won five consecutive national titles from 2003-07, and placed seventh in the 2019 nationals in Melbourne, Florida.

The first National Concrete Canoe Competition was held in 1988. The concrete canoe tradition itself dates back to the 1960s, according to the ASCE, when a small number of student chapters held intramural competitions. UW-Madison has previously hosted the National Concrete Canoe Competition in 1996 and 2002 and has a long history of success in the event.

As the events draw nearer, UW-Madison ASCE chapter co-chairs Finley Myers and Alison Pagel say students are hard at work on preparations. With the canoe races set to take place on Lake Wingra, the chapter has focused on securing funding and volunteers to help with the event, with guidance from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“It’s going to take money to run these competitions,” Myers says. “We’re trying to fund-raise with companies and also are reaching out to civil engineering students and others around campus. While we’re still focused on fund raising, we’re starting to work on getting volunteers, which is a large effort.”

Students have a $50,000 fund-raising goal for the competition. Myers says they have, so far, raised about $25,000.

UW-Madison’s ASCE chapter, which has about 30 members, also is hoping to find about 40 non-student volunteers per day to assist with the two-day regional competition and 30 per day for the national finals.

Beyond fund raising and volunteers, students are working to spread word of the event across the university and in the broader Madison community.

“I have professors with kids and I talk to them about it,” Pagel says. “They’re really excited and want to bring their kids to see these concrete boats that float, and to see these engineering students from different schools compete with something they’ve been working on all semester. I think the community will also be pretty interested in this, so we’re working to build awareness as the spring semester approaches.”

Bill Likos, CEE department chair and Gary Wendt Professor in civil and environmental engineering, says it’s a tremendous honor for the college to once again host the competition.

“This is entirely a student-run event,” he says. “They’re doing everything from planning to marketing and fund raising, and it’s been really impressive to see how well they’re doing all of these things.”

While students are leading the way, Likos says it’s important for alumni to also offer support.

“This is a huge undertaking and we need all the support we can get from our alumni,” he says. “This is exactly the type of hands-on opportunity that students and many of our alumni will be able to appreciate.”

For more information about the event, to volunteer, or to make a financial contribution, contact Myers at fmyers@wisc.edu or Pagel at apagel2@wisc.edu.

Author: Alex Holloway