Victory for Cal Poly in the National Concrete Canoe Competition was a result of brains and brawn — but mostly brains.
Cal Poly took first place last weekend in the American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition. Cal Poly beat out 21 other teams from the U.S. and Canada. The teams were scored in four different categories: design paper, technical presentation, the design and aesthetics of the canoe and the races.
“It’s mostly intellectual,” said civil engineering graduate Steve Gursky, one of the paddlers and organizers for Cal Poly.
The competition, which was first held nationally in 1988, challenges students to design and build a canoe made out of concrete.
Cal Poly won the regional competition in April to advance to the national finals, which were held at Lopez Lake, near San Luis Obispo.
It was the first year a host school has won the competition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition website.
But civil engineering senior Kyle Marshall, the project manager, said while his team did not have an advantage in the scoring by being the host team, it did
provide motivation to win.
Cal Poly scored 96.5 points out of a possible 100, one of the highest scores ever in the competition. University of Nevada, Reno, finished second with 77.5 points. The difference between first and second place last year was four points, Marshall said.
Furthermore, this year was the first time Cal Poly has won the event, although it came close in previous years, placing third last year and second in 2006. Cal Poly’s canoe, Amazona, was 80 pounds lighter than last year’s, which weighed 181 pounds.
The 20-foot canoe was the product of more than 4,600 hours of work.
“It is very exciting,” he said of the victory. “It’s the culmination of years of hard work.”
The most exciting moment for the team, Marshall said, was when it got the scorecard back and saw there were no deductions in the judged categories. Marshall said any deductions would have greatly decreased Cal Poly’s chances of winning and the judges are “very picky.”
Students have the opportunity to turn their in-class training into tactile work.
Kathy Caldwell, a civil engineering graduate and president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said the competition helps students take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to a physical problem.
“It is a practical application to solve a fun project,” she said. “How does that ever go out of style?”
Team members start practicing for the races in September in order to try and make the final team, Gursky said. Prospective team members use canoes from previous years to train until the practice canoe is ready in December, he said.
Teams compete in five different races: men’s and women’s sprints, men’s and women’s endurance and a co-ed sprint. Cal Poly won both men’s teams events as well as the co-ed sprint. The women’s teams came in second.
Cal Poly also had the top presentation and top final product, and came in second behind the University of Nevada, Reno in the design paper.
The team hopes to repeat its success next year but will do so without any of this year’s team captains, and with only one women’s returning paddler, civil engineering senior Renee Morales.