HYRUM — Donning wet suits, a team of Utah State University students marched into the waters of Hyrum reservoir carrying with them something that took a total of 2,200 man hours to build — “Canoebis.”
The crowd of family members, mentors and children standing at the edge of the beach let out a giant applause.
Then, using buckets, the team members poured water into Canoebis — complete with a “mummified Big Blue” and Egyptian characters spelling their names — for the swamp test.
The swamp test allows judges to test the endurance of the canoes for the Rocky Mountain American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, student conference, which took place Thursday through Saturday. The conference also features other competitions, including a steel bridge competition.
“I love it; this is what we live for,” said Ryan Warren, canoe member and a graduate student majoring in civil engineering. “We work all year for all of this and this is our favorite part.”
The hard work paid off, according to Saturday’s results USU took first for the third consecutive year.
The winner of each regional canoe competition moves on to compete for a monetary reward at the national level. In 2011, the USU canoe team placed 16th, and in 2012 it placed 18th.
Teams qualify for the National Concrete Canoe competition by placing first in one of 18 conference competitions held throughout the U.S. Teams placing second in a conference competition behind a university that finished in the top five at the previous year’s national competition are also invited.
The top three schools of the regional steel bridge competition advance to the National Student Steel Bridge Competition to compete with the top 50 schools in the country.
The Rocky Mountain Regional “challenges the students’ knowledge, while showcasing the versatility and durability of concrete as a building material,” the ASCE website reads.
For the competition in Logan, each of the 14 Rocky Mountain region universities — including the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the U.S. Air Force Academy — raced a canoe made from concrete or built mini bridges made of steel.
Canoes are judged on four equally weighted categories at Hyrum State Park — a technical report, oral presentation, the final product and five canoe races.
Team members are allowed to have a little fun — each school’s canoe had a different theme. USU took on an Egyptian theme, and the Air Force Academy had called theirs “The Phoenix.”
The steel bridge competition took place Friday in USU’s Fieldhouse. The teams were graded on aesthetics, a bridge-building competition, a technical paper and a non-technical paper.
The concrete competition itself is harder than it looks, team members say.
“It takes a lot of practice ... because it’s heavier,” said Warren, who helped bring the Aggies to first place during those years, but did not actually race in 2013. “You’re weaving in and out of these buoys ... and constantly changing directions, but once you get out in the open ... it’s just paddling. You just have to make sure you’re straight. A lot of kids start veering off and it kills your momentum.”
Warren reflected on his team’s accomplishments.
“The first year came as a surprise; we didn’t know what it took to win. Last year we felt like we had a good chance to win — we almost lost — but we pulled it off,” Warren said. “It’s a little more pressure; we’re the ones with the target on our heads. We have to step up to the plate and do it.”
Erik Bergal, steel bridge captain for the University of Colorado, Boulder, said he was happy to be at the regionals this year because for a while Boulder didn’t have a steel bridge team.
“It’s a great way for (engineering) students to be involved, we’re building publicity at our university, getting younger students involved,” he said.
Melinna Boyd, the senior steel bridge captain of the University of New Mexico, said they spent an entire semester designing it and then another semester building it, working with companies in their community.
“It came down to the wire, but we got it done,” said Melinna Boyd, the senior steel bridge captain of the University of New Mexico. “The biggest thing we learned was working as a team, that’s especially important, especially in civil engineering.”
USU will host the competition again in 2025.
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