UBC Concrete Canoe wins first place at ASCE PNW competition

After overcoming challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, UBC Concrete Canoe made a triumphant comeback at this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Concrete Canoe Pacific Northwest Regional Competition, where they won the top prize for the first time.

Each year, the competition challenges participating student teams to design, construct, and race a canoe made entirely from concrete. The goal is to build the strongest and most hydrodynamically efficient and lightweight concrete canoe possible.

UBC Concrete Canoe’s winning design this year featured low-density concrete with a dry specific gravity of 0.90, which allowed for floatation without foam bulkheads; a modified hull design optimized for the paddler’s speed in a straight-line, and a 5-colour aesthetic design—the most advanced in the team’s history.

Advised by Assistant Professor Dr. Omar Swei, the team formed in 2013 and has steadily improved year after year. After placing second in 2019 and 2021 (2020’s competition was canceled), the team finally bested rival University of Washington this year. Winning regionals means the team will go on to represent the Pacific Northwest at the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition in June.

“I joined UBC Concrete Canoe in 2018, having been on the mix team for two years before being co-captain for two years during COVID,” said Ryan Carrusca (Civil, ’22). “I am very proud of this team and what we have accomplished this year, through the hardship of COVID-19 and returning to campus after our hiatus.”

The team’s victorious finish this year was the result of perseverance and hard work, as hardships arising from the COVID-19 global pandemic challenged the team to re-examine the situation and apply new solutions.

When the world shut down in March 2020, all in-person activities were and remained canceled for almost two years.

“As a result, retaining junior members was a challenge, and our lead members with the most experience had graduated,” said Carrusca.

This past September, when in-person activities finally resumed, the team found themselves comprised of mostly members who had never participated in in-person activities before.

Carrusca, for his part, took this opportunity to encourage the team to cultivate resilience and demonstrate adaptability.

“We allocated more time in our schedules for knowledge transfer and re-learning construction activities, as we had to ensure members had the skills required to design and construct our canoe this year and in the future,” he said.

That the team finished so strong in spite of the challenges is a testament to strong leadership, teamwork, and the generous support from industry sponsors, which include Xypex, Ellis Don, Hatch, Pomerleau, and many more.

“We rely on the support of our sponsors to make our team a success,” said Carrusca. “Their support in material, construction, and transporting costs have ensured that our team members can further their personal and professional development at competitions.”

UBC Concrete Canoe is comprised of over 35 students from all years, representing primarily Civil Engineering, but also other disciplines and faculties as well. Students who join may expect to gain design experience in concrete mix, hull shape development, visual and graphic design, and report writing, as well as teamwork, project management, and finance.

To learn more about UBC Concrete Canoe and how you can participate, visit yesitfloats.ca.