Concrete canoe team headed to national ASCE competition

The 2019 Colorado School of Mines concrete canoe

“The Kraken” is going to the 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition.

The concrete canoe – designed by a team of Mines Capstone Design students – took first place at the ASCE Rocky Mountain Regional Conference earlier this month to earn a berth in the international collegiate competition this June.

“As a team, we have over 2,000 hours logged on the project. It’s really satisfying to know that we put that much time in and got good results from it,” said team leader Emmy Tran, a senior majoring in civil engineering. “We think we can do really well at nationals.”

Building a winning canoe out of concrete is about a whole lot more than just making sure it will float. Teams must follow strict regulations on length, width and concrete mix. At competition, teams are judged not only on the results of five races but also their oral presentations, technical paper and final product.

The Mines squad, on their way to their overall win, placed first in oral presentation and final product, second in technical paper and women’s sprint race and third in men’s sprint race. 

“The biggest thing we did was add the wood grain texture on the outside – we’ve never seen a textured canoe before at regionals or nationals,” Tran said. “It was really innovative not only because of the texture but you typically have to use release agents in your molds to make sure the concrete comes out. But those agents aren’t very good for the environment. It was great that we were able to use something else as a mold release.” 

And after last year’s Mines team endured the heartbreak of having their canoe break on the way to regionals in South Dakota, this year’s group put extra emphasis on transportation.

“We built a new carrier this year,” Tran said. “We used firehose and mattresses and two-by-eights instead of two-by-fours. We overdid it a bit, but we really didn’t want our canoe to break.” 

Having the reinforced carrier definitely won’t hurt when it’s time for the team to haul the canoe across the country to nationals, set for June 6-8 at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Once there, Mines will face stiff competition from teams from around the U.S., Canada, China and India. Among the schools sending teams to Florida are University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Louisiana Tech University, University of Wisconsin, Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (India), New York University, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Oklahoma State University, University of Minnesota, Université Laval (Canada), Michigan Tech, Western Kentucky University, University of Washington, California Polytechnic State University, University of Florida and Fairmont State University.

Rounding out the Mines team are civil engineering seniors Lindsey Whittington, Abbie Steiner, Grant Martin, Brandon Bergmann, Adam Trujillo, Erika Stromerson and Shelby Palisoul, as well as a host of juniors and sophomores who volunteered countless hours.

To defray the cost of attending nationals, the team is looking to crowdfund $3,000 on Gold Mine, Colorado School of Mines' official crowdfunding platform. The campaign runs through May 14. To donate, go to

“Our team is awesome,” Tran said. “I’m really proud of us for working together gracefully and productively, getting a lot done and learning new things.”

“We did so much testing,” she said. “We learned a lot about engineering and how important it is to do testing and make mistakes and find a better way, even if something already works.”

The canoe team led a large Mines student delegation at regionals that also captured first place overall at the conference, hosted this year at CU Boulder. Mines teams placed fourth in the steel bridge competition, with the second-fastest build time; first in the survey competition; and first in the cofferdam design/build project.  

  • Steel Bridge Team: Drey Walburg, Jeremy Nguyen, Jeff Olson, Jenna Lucas, Duane Davison and Jason Husmann. 
  • Surveying Team: Jason Husmann, Ari Fernandez, Christine Commercon, Victoria Waters, Maddy Anderson, Maddy Caviness, Daylin Gray, Adrian Perez, Lydia Prather, Clara Bewley, Brittany French and Elena Lundeen.
  • Cofferdam Team: Camille Faatz, Sam Osei, Adrian Perez, Caleb Dotten, Jocelyn Johnson, Keita Aylesworth
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.