WMU Home > WMU News >

WMU News

Engineering students build concrete canoe, steel bridge

March 24, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University civil and construction engineering students will compete for best design of a concrete canoe that floats and a steel bridge that can be assembled quickly and hold 2,500 pounds, at the upcoming American Society of Civil Engineers North Central Regional Competition April 2-4.

Held at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., this is the fifth year WMU has competed in the concrete canoe competition. It is the University's first attempt in the steel bridge division. WMU students placed fifth out of six teams for their 2008 concrete canoe design.

Growing student numbers in the study of civil engineering made it possible for the University to have two teams for the canoe and bridge divisions this year, says Paul Pagano, a senior from Pinckney, Mich., who is team captain for the concrete canoe team. About 25 WMU students have been working on the concrete canoe project and about 14 on the steel bridge construction since September 2008.

This year's concrete canoe requirements include that at least 10 percent of the concrete mix be recycled material. WMU greatly surpassed that benchmark by having 88 percent of its concrete made of recycled materials.

"Concrete is not always thought of as being a 'green' building material because of the use of Portland cement which requires a lot of heat to produce, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide," Pagano says. "With the drive towards more 'green' construction, there is a push for more eco-friendly materials."

Under the steel bridge competition, students design a 20-foot long bridge that can be assembled in the shortest amount of time from pieces no longer than 3 feet six inches. The resulting structure also must be able to hold at least 2,500 pounds. Besides designing the pieces, WMU's team also is taking the extra step of manufacturing its own parts on campus.

"Most schools just design it and send it out for fabrication. We've been putting in the hours to weld it and do all the hands-on construction," says Nick Francis, a civil engineering senior from Saginaw, Mich., who is captain of WMU's steel bridge team.

Some of the other schools competing in the steel bridge division have been doing so for 10 to 20 years. Yet Francis says this year's new design requirements will help put WMU on more even footing with its competition. The bridge design in the past has required support above the road surface, while the new guidelines call for the support to be below the surface, such as with an overpass.

WMU' civil engineering program is relatively new, launched in fall 2003, however, the University will have its own shot to be in the spotlight for the ASCE competition next year. The organization has announced its 2010 regional contest will be at WMU.

WMU faculty members assisting with the projects are Dr. Hubo Cai, assistant professor of civil and construction engineering, and Dr. Haluk Aktan, chair of the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering.

For more information, go to wmich.edu/engineer/student-projects.htm or visit the WMU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers online.

Related article
Students clinch third in regional engineering competition

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400