The Cal Poly Concrete Canoe team placed first in their regional competition and will move on to finals. Brandon Friedman| Courtesy Photo

Hundreds of hours of work paid off for Cal Poly’s concrete canoe and steel bridge teams April 11 to 14, where both teams placed first in the American Society of Civil Engineers regional competition at Arizona State.

According to project manager and civil engineering junior Brandon Friedman, the concrete canoe team has made top five for the past 11 years and won Nationals last year. The steel bridge team has made it to Nationals since 2006, according to captain and civil engineering senior Sarah Schaffer. The concrete frisbee team also placed first in regionals this year.

Steel bridge captain and civil engineering senior Luke Nazaroff attributed part of the steel bridge team’s recurring success to Cal Poly’s space and resources, such as the Aero Hangar and Mustang 60. Another important factor is transferring knowledge to underclassmen by mentoring them throughout the process.

The team received their rulebook in August and hit the ground running, designing their bridge and looking into past competitions for inspiration. This year’s team included about 14 students, made up of civil engineering senior captains, a project manager and volunteers.

This year, the rules changed from requiring a 20-foot bridge to a 17-foot bridge. Team members felt this change allowed for more schools to compete and felt that it was not as challenging in past years.

The teams are judged on structural efficiency and construction economy, which is the amount of time it takes to build multiplied by the number of people used in construction. Cal Poly built their bridge in two minutes and 41 seconds with four people.

The team will head to nationals May 25-26  in Champaign, Illinois. The team is allowed to make modifications to their bridge before nationals. However, the team said they are satisfied with the bridge and will continue to practice setting it up as fast as possible.

Similar to the steel bridge team, the concrete canoe team typically begins their work during fall quarter. After reading through the rules, they begin the design process, one of the construction captains and civil engineering senior Hailey Bond said.

“[It comes down to] following the rules exactly. It’s a deductions game,” Bond said.

Once the design is laid out, they begin casting a test canoe, allowing for trial and error before making the final product. They use the test canoe for paddling practice as well.

The team, comprised of about 13 students, is judged on four categories which are weighed equally: oral presentation, design paper, aesthetic of canoe and a paddle race.

This year, the team chose a Vincent Van Gogh theme for their canoe.

“We thought it would be a really good way to elevate our aesthetics of the canoe because that’s something that everybody kind of struggles with is how do we make concrete look beautiful?” Bond said. “Van Gogh was pushing the boundaries of painting and changing painting when he as an artist and so like we are kind of doing the same thing with concrete.”

A rule that prevents the team from staining the canoes posed a challenge for the team. Rather than paint the canoe after it was finished, the team mixed in powdered color with the concrete to incorporate Van Gogh’s style into their canoe.

The concrete canoe team will head to San Diego to compete in Nationals June 23-25. Unlike the steel bridge team, the canoe team cannot make any changes to their project between now and Nationals. However, they will continue to practice their paddling skills and oral presentation.

“This is so much more valuable than the regular senior project. We learn some of the traits for construction,” project manager and civil engineering senior Michael Clark said. “Its a lot less theoretical and much more practical to take this design and see it assembled in real life.”

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