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University of Akron Students Build Concrete Boat, Steel Bridge at Engineering Conferences

Jennifer Conn
University of Akron engineering students launch a 300-pound concrete canoe during an American Society of Civil Engineers conference at Portage Lakes State Park.

University of Akron engineering students are getting a chance to showcase their design-build skills at two prominent conferences the school is hosting.

During the American Society of Civil Engineers conference at Portage Lakes State Park on April 11-12, a team from Akron raced a concrete canoe against eight other universities. Akron’s 25-member team has worked for about a year to build the 300-pound boat.

The team dubbed the canoe “Heritage” to honor the region’s historic Portage Path, an eight-mile trail created by Native Americans connecting the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers.

Team captain Zach Taylor says building the boat is just one component of a larger project designed to prepare students for all facets of the engineering

“In addition to the actual boat we have to give an oral presentation in front of a panel of judges and it went well, it’s nerve wracking, and we have to write a design paper, a technical paper, and that was two all-nighters in a row,” Taylor said. “We do kind of the whole academic spectrum you know, calcs and writing and speaking and ultimately paddling.”

During the American Institute of Steel Construction conference April 13, the Akron team will be timed as the students build a 20 by 3 foot steel bridge at the John S. Knight Center.

In both competitions, the design specifications are changed each year to ensure no team has an unfair advantage. Winners will advance to nationals later this spring.