Concrete Canoe, Steel Bridge Competitions April 1 at Tech

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Teams of young engineers from Michigan and Ohio will be building bridges and displaying concrete canoes at Michigan Tech this weekend.

The university is hosting the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2007 North Central Conference, which features two collegiate design contests: the Steel Bridge Construction Competition and the Concrete Canoe Competition. The events are free and open to the public.

Both will be held the morning of Sunday, April 1, at the Gates Tennis Center.

Students from eight colleges and universities will begin building 20-foot steel bridges at 9 a.m. "It's a speed event," explains civil engineering graduate student T. J. Bates, the conference organizer. "Teams have to rapidly assemble pieces about four feet long."

The bridges will span taped off "water" that will be off-limits to the contestants. Once the bridges are built, they will be moved to a loading area at the Gates Tennis Center, where each will be weighed down with over two tons of steel to test their strength. The event will continue through the afternoon, ending officially at 6 p.m. The top two teams will advance to the national competition later this year.

The concrete canoe teams will display their lighter-than-water projects from 8 a.m. to noon and then move to Room 135 of Fisher Hall to give five-minute presentations on their design and construction techniques from 1 to 5 p.m. "Then they will be grilled by the judges to see if they really know what they are talking about or if they are just repeating what their advisors said," said Bates, a concrete canoe veteran.

Traditionally, the Concrete Canoe Competition ends with teams putting their boats in the water, but the Portage Waterway is usually frozen over in March, so the races will be held in Saginaw next week. Depending on the results, one or two teams may advance to the nationals in June.

At Michigan Tech, students do not get credit for their work on the steel bridge or concrete canoe events. "But you learn an immeasurable amount just by being in the clubs and participating," Bates said.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.