Western Michigan University’s (WMU) College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will host a regional steel bridge and concrete canoe competition April 6-8, when 10 universities will compete in a variety of categories with hopes of advancing to the national finals. WMU engineering students participate each year in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) North Central Regional Competition and have the opportunity to host the event every 10 years. The event – which will be held at Floyd Hall at the Parkview campus --- is free and open to the public. The competition kicks off Saturday, April 7 starting at 9 a.m. and runs throughout the day. Concrete canoe races will be held at Portage’s Ramona Park on Sunday, April 8, beginning at 9 a.m.
Universities from Michigan and Ohio will attend the conference, with nine concrete canoe teams and nine steel bridge teams. The teams are judged by industry professionals.
“The concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions have a long tradition of fostering teamwork and camaraderie,” said Dr. Osama Abudayyeh, professor and chair of the college’s Department of Civil and Construction Engineering. “The event provides students with a chance to gain hands-on, practical experience and leadership skills while dealing with real-world engineering issues.”
The steel bridge team designs, fabricates and constructs a scale-model bridge based on criteria established by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Institute of Steel Construction. The competition involves building a 1:10 scale bridge that is evaluated on lightness, stiffness, construction speed, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance. An award is also given for display. WMU’s bridge must be 17 feet with a clearance of 7.5 inches and be able to hold 2,500 pounds.
“We’re a relatively young group but we feel like we’ve learned a lot from last year,” said Jacob Zahm, steel bridge team captain. “We’ve specifically been focused on making the bridge easier to fabricate and assemble, and we’ve been making good progress so far. And we’re looking forward to the competition this year especially since it’s being held at WMU.”
WMU’s entry in this year’s concrete canoe competition is named “Golden Opportunity,” and for the second year, was produced using a “female” mold rather than the typical “male” mold. The concrete was trowelled inside the Styrofoam mold, rather than the outside. The canoe will be judged in categories such as hull design and aesthetics as well as its performance in a number of different races. One rule change this year is that the coloring agent for the concrete has to be incorporated into the mix, and cannot be applied after casting. The competition also involves a display and presentation of the concrete canoe, as well as a separate technical paper.
The concrete canoe team will conduct paddling practice and see how this year’s canoe performs in the water.
“We have a relatively young team this year, with a lot of newcomers,” said Ethan Carpenter, team captain. “We are pushing hard to win this year and get the new team prepared for the future.”