By Marti Harrell
The NPCA Foundation continually seeks opportunities to expand its outreach to students by introducing them to the features and benefits of precast concrete. In 2016, the Foundation began sponsoring the American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition. There, whether they realize it or not, students have already manufactured a piece of precast, which makes it a great opportunity to have a conversation about the precast industry and share information about the Foundation’s scholarship programs.
This year, the competition was held at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., and included 20 schools from the U.S., Canada and China. During the competition, the Foundation hosted a hospitality tent for students where Foundation Board members and NPCA professional staff shared information about the precast concrete industry, job opportunities, and Foundation scholarships for concrete canoe teams and for students pursuing degrees related to the industry.
“The NPCA Foundation is very excited to be a part of the Concrete Canoe Competition,” Richard Isaacson, NPCA Foundation chairman, said. “It has continued to increase its outreach to students and professors to raise awareness of the Foundation and its internship programs and scholarships plus the advantages of precast.”
In addition to the Foundation’s involvement as a sponsor, NPCA Technical Services Engineer Kayla Hanson, P.E. served as a member of the five-person judging panel. As a judge, Hanson rated schools based on their design papers, oral presentations and canoes.
In addition, the concrete canoe races also impact the school’s final score.
“There are stringent requirements that must be met in each aspect of the competition, both big and small,” Hanson said. “From mix proportions, dimensions and raw material documentation to scheduling, budgeting and answering judges’ technical questions before an audience of hundreds of your peers. It’s great practice and exposure, and it’s an invaluable learning opportunity.
“Each team dedicates hundreds of hours to their project throughout the year, so it’s really rewarding to see all their hard work come to fruition.”
Of the 13 schools awarded $500 Concrete Canoe Competition scholarships from the NPCA Foundation, three made it to nationals, including Fairmont State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Milwaukee School of Engineering. Schools participating in the Concrete Canoe Competition must adhere to rules. Detailed design papers are submitted as part of the competition. Papers must include mold and canoe construction information as well as canoe finishing techniques. In addition, the papers must detail the canoe’s mix design and justification. Mill certs, material safety data sheets and technical data sheets are also required. The schools must explain how they resolved issues with the previous year’s canoe and justify why the choices made are an improvement.
During both the regional and national competitions, each team must present their canoe in a science fair format. The canoe is displayed on dry land with an accompanying booth showcasing materials and processes used to manufacture it. Each team must also offer an oral presentation, which includes questions from the judges. The competition wraps up with a variety of concrete canoe races for speed, maneuverability and endurance. All three pieces of the competition – display, presentations and races – are evaluated to calculate the school’s final score.
This year, California Polytechnic State University sailed away with the first place prize. Cal Poly’s concrete canoe weighed 230 pounds and was christened “Meraki,” which means “pouring one’s heart and soul into a project.”
The NPCA Foundation has agreed to sponsor the 2018 ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition in San Diego and to again provide scholarship opportunities to participating schools.
“The ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition allows the NPCA Foundation to interact with hundreds of civil engineering students throughout the country and beyond,” said Marti Harrell, NPCA Foundation executive director. “Many of the students have very little exposure to precast during their college classes, so having the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face allows us to fill in the missing pieces of what they learned in their materials and structures analysis classes in college. The NPCA Foundation Board is excited to get more involved with the regional competitions too, and encourages NPCA members to reach out to universities in their areas participating in the competition to provide materials and expertise to the canoe teams.
“It is a great way to build an ongoing relationship with engineering schools and future specifiers.”
To see the complete results from the 2017 competition and to learn more about ASCE’s Concrete Canoe program, visit asce.org/concrete-canoe-results.
Marti Harrell is NPCA’s vice president of technical services and professional development and is the NPCA Foundation executive director.