Concrete Canoe Team certain to make a splash at Stone Valley

Jennifer Swales
April 08, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State civil engineering students are gearing up to race across Lake Perez in their concrete canoe in just one of three competitions slated to take place April 11 and 12 at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) Student Conference held at the Stone Valley Recreational Area and University Park campus.

The other two competitions include a steel bridge building contest and an inaugural geo-wall challenge.

“The students really enjoy both the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions,” said concrete canoe faculty adviser Thomas Skibinski. “There is a strong and fun competitive spirit between the teams.” 

The conference, hosted by the Penn State student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), brings together civil engineering students from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. A number of activities have been planned for the two-day event.

On Saturday, April 11, activities include concrete canoe, steel bridge and geo-wall displays in the morning, along with technical paper presentations. Concrete canoe design report presentations and the geo-wall competitions will be held in the afternoon at the IST Building and at the Civil Infrastructure Testing and Evaluation Laboratory, respectively.

On Sunday, April 12, activities include the concrete canoe paddling competition, steel bridge competition and closing ceremonies, all of which will be held at Penn State’s Stone Valley Recreation Area.

The concrete canoe competition requires participants to build a canoe made of concrete that must not only float on water but race against other concrete canoes. Scoring in the competition is based on the quality of construction, race performance, a design paper and a business presentation.

The steel bridge competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the ASCE, requires participants to build a 1/10th scale steel bridge that must comply with the AISC rules and must be assembled quickly on-site at the competition.

The geo-wall challenge charges participants with designing and building a model of a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining wall using only paper reinforcement taped to a poster board wall facing. Participants must build the MSE wall using the least amount of reinforcement needed to support the retained soil and design load, all while meeting specific time requirements. They must also present a poster communicating their analysis and design process.

Skibinski said the competitions build teamwork skills, which are vital in today's engineering world.

“All aspects of an engineering project are exhibited in the building of a canoe -- design, construction, teamwork, business skills, report writing and presentation skills,” Skibinski said. “Plus, it looks great on a student's resume and in many cases, becomes the focus of discussion during an interview.”

The MAR conference provides students a professional platform to exchange ideas, meet a diverse group of engineers, learn the latest innovations in different fields and practice knowledge in the real world.

For more information, contact ASCE MAR chairman Andrew Stoops at

  • Concrete canoe set up for display judging

    Concrete canoe set up for display judging.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Steel bridge getting ready for load testing.

    Steel bridge getting ready for load testing.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Steel bridge set up for display judging

    Steel bridge set up for display judging.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • A built geo-wall undergoing its load test

    A built geo-wall undergoing its load test.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated April 09, 2015