At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly unique about the 16-foot-long canoe christened “Let It Row” docked in the basement of Brown Hall. It’s only upon a closer inspection that it’s clear this vessel weighs roughly 200 pounds more than even the heaviest aluminum canoe. Why? The canoe is made out of concrete.
“Yes, we do put our concrete canoe in the water,” said Peyton Gibson, the project manager of the 2016-17 Mines concrete canoe competition senior design team. “Hopefully it will float this year.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers hosts a competition every year, challenging student engineers to design and build a workable canoe made of concrete. The goal of the competition is to provide students with hands-on engineering experience and build awareness of new concrete technologies and applications. The Mines design team has had all hands on deck designing a (relatively) light-weight yet sturdy canoe using unique add mixtures to the concrete.
“The things that you learn from this project—mixing concrete, the types of reinforcement that you need—can be easily applied to real-life situations,” said Maito Okamoto, the technical lead for the Mines senior design team.
Gibson added, “This project has taught us all how to work on a team. [We’ve been] learning project management skills, how to stick to a schedule and how to work together.”
At competition, teams are rated on four criteria, each worth 25 percent of their final score: a design paper, an oral presentation, the final canoe and five canoe races.
The 11 seniors on the Mines team have spent more than 1,700 hours designing the canoe, creating a mold, mixing and casting the concrete, sanding the canoe and working on the accompanying design paper and oral presentation.
“We had a few bumps along the way, so it took a lot of man hours to get where we want to be,” said Jon Chestnut, the design team’s administration manager. “We’ve developed a really good communication plan this semester with weekly updates and project work plans.”
“We are on schedule and on track,” said Gibson. “Getting everyone on the same page and moving at the same pace has been incredibly difficult but incredibly rewarding.”
The senior design team will take their canoe to the University of Utah to compete at the conference competition on April 6-8 with the hope of qualifying for the National Concrete Canoe Competition, which Mines is hosting at Evergreen Lake just outside of Golden, Colo., June 17-19.
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