Each year, University of Colorado Boulder students construct a canoe out of concrete, plunk it in a lake and then race it against engineering students from other university concrete canoe teams.
This year 15 CU Boulder civil and architectural engineering students spent more than 60 hours constructing the canoe, named “Bruce,” after the great white shark in the animated movie, “Finding Nemo.”
However, the open water races were canceled due to cold temperatures. The event would have taken place at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs during the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2023 Rocky Mountain Student Symposium.
Still, it was a great experience, said Gabi Dunn, a junior in the CVEN program. At the symposium, CU Boulder students did well in other competitions, taking second place in both the non-technical paper and innovation challenge and third place in both the technical paper and surveying competitions.
“We all really enjoy building the canoe because it lets us apply some knowledge from our classes in a fun and unique way,” said Dunn, who headed down to the competition on April 20 along with 14 CU Boulder teammates and Associate Teaching Professor Chris Senseney, the ASCE faculty advisor. “It's always fun to see people interested and confused about how we make concrete float.”
This year’s canoe weighed 384 pounds. Despite the heaviness, Dunn said the team was able to make the canoe float by using a hull design modeled after traditional canoes and by mixing into the concrete lightweight aggregates, including Poraver, made from post-consumer recycled glass.
Although the team wasn’t able to race, Gianni Carbonaro, an AREN sophomore, said he learned a lot from the construction experience, including the importance of choosing the correct styrofoam mold.
“In the process of taking the mold off, we actually broke the canoe so we had to re-pour the concrete and fix it,” he said. “That was one of the most interesting things I learned.”
The team cannot use this year’s canoe in the 2024 competition, but Bruce will be on display in the engineering courtyard with other concrete canoes from past years.
Students interested in joining the ASCE Student Chapter and the 2024 team can contact email@example.com.