Students prepare to float their boat in April

Concrete canoe team

WMU's 2015-2016 concrete canoe team

Engineering students spent a sunny Saturday recently casting their concrete canoe for an upcoming competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  After designing, building, 28 days of curing -- and paddling practice -- the team will head to East Lansing with their canoe and see if they can float their boat.

Scheduled for April 7-9 in East Lansing and hosted by Michigan State University, the event includes multiple races including men’s sprint, women’s sprint, men’s endurance and women’s endurance (each with two paddlers) and a coed sprint with a four-person crew.  Up to 11 schools from Michigan and several surrounding states will participate.

While the college has participated in ASCE’s North Central Regional Conference for many years, this is the first time in a number of years that the team designed a canoe using a “female” mold rather than a “male” mold. That means that the troweling of the concrete occurred on the inside of the Styrofoam mold, rather than the outside.

“It’s just different,” said team captain Bryan McDowell, a civil engineering senior from St. Clair, MI. “I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult, it’s just a completely different process than we’re used to.”

It’s also a new design, he said. “We are taking some risks because we really want to win.”  The WMU team took third place overall last year.

Team members will practice their paddling technique at WMU’s natatorium before the competition.

This year’s entry, named the “Italian Stallion” will be judged not just on its performance on the water, but also in categories such as hull design and aesthetics. The competition also includes a display and a technical paper on the canoe project management, development and testing.

Cody Cantu, president of the student chapter of ASCE and a civil engineering senior from Rockford, MI., said he felt the casting process went well.

students on casting day

Concrete canoe team members trowel concrete into the mold.

“I’m impressed at how well it came together with a new mold and with a younger, less experienced team,” he said.

He also thanked the many donors that support WMU’s student chapter of ASCE. In the concrete canoe project alone, donors have provided expertise and the use of equipment as well as in-kind and cash donations totaling more than $2,500.

Faculty advisor for the student ASCE chapter is Dr. Osama Abudayyeh, chair of the civil and construction engineering department. Advisors for the team are Dr. Upul Attanayake and Dr. Xiaoyun Shao, also from civil and construction engineering.

Said Abudayyeh, “The concrete canoe competition is a great way for students to be challenged and learn from each other outside the classroom. They gain practical experience while developing leadership and project management skills.” He said it is not unusual for alumni to return to provide guidance and help on casting day.

“The students involved really develop a bond working so closely together,” Abudayyeh said. “They are looking forward to showcasing their canoe and competing in April.”

WMU has participated in the concrete canoe competition since 2004.  For more information about the concrete canoe team, visit their Facebook page.