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University of Akron Students Prepare a Concrete Canoe For Competition

photo of Concrete Canoe Team
The University of Akron's Concrete Canoe Team spent the past weekend pouring this year's vessel into a 19-foot mold. It takes about a month to cure, and the regional competition will be April 11 at Portage Lakes State Park.

Engineering students at the University of Akron spent the weekend making a canoe – out of concrete.

Two-dozen civil engineering majors got up early Saturday morning to pack specially formulated concrete into a 19-foot mold for the canoe, which took 2,000 hours to create.  It’s part of the school’s decades-long participation in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Concrete Canoe competition.

Team captain Zach Taylor has been participating for five years and said he has enhanced many of his skills beyond what is taught in the classroom or during internships.

“You only do a little bit of mix design in your curriculum," Taylor said.  "Scheduling, again, only a little bit.  Budgeting.  And you give an oral presentation.  So really a whole bundle of good communication and engineering qualities you take away from the team.”

The team also had to perfect a mixture of lightweight concrete.  In one month, the canoe should be ready for sanding and sealing.

Craig Menzemer, interim dean of the College of Engineering, said the students are challenged every year since the design parameters and competition keep changing.

“Some years they have to use one recycled material; sometimes it’s two.  Every year, it’s a little bit different.  There’s no endurance race this year, so they flattened the bottom of the boat out and get a little bit better turning.  So in shorter races, it will make a big difference.”

When finished, the canoe is projected to weigh about 160 pounds and will be tested by teams of two or four people. The school will then host the regional competition at Portage Lakes State Park in April.

This year’s canoe is named “Heritage,” an homage to the Portage Path, which historically offered passage between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas Rivers, as well as being the country’s original western border.

The University of Akron Concrete Canoe team was formed in the 1970s and has placed nationally more than a dozen times, including last year.

Dean Craig Menzemer and Dept. Chair Wieslaw Binienda discuss the team
Dean Craig Menzemer and Dept. Chair Wieslaw Binienda discuss the team

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.