Ingenuity turns concrete into canoes and steel tubing into bridges


UA’s 2013 concrete canoe sports a fishing theme.

The assorted steel tubes and fixtures civil engineering senior Josh Weaver takes out of a small case will be assembled into a 17-foot-long bridge capable of bearing 2,500 pounds. The canoe, which civil engineering senior Austin Feucht and his classmates crafted from concrete, actually floats on water. Weaver and Ben Thoburn, co-captains of The University of Akron’s Steel Bridge Team, and Feucht, captain of UA’s Concrete Canoe Team, and their teammates have been preparing for months for competitions that put their engineering ingenuity to ultimate tests.

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Learn more about the College of Engineering's many student design teams.

Dozens of the University’s civil engineering students will gather for regional competitions of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Chapter: the ASCE Ohio Valley Concrete Canoe Competition is Friday, April 5, at Hinckley Lake, and the American Institute of Steel Construction Steel Bridge Competition is Saturday, April 6, at Cleveland State University.

Students on the Steel Bridge Team participate in an intercollegiate competition that encourages them to combine skills in structural design, fabrication, construction planning, organization, project management and teamwork to design, fabricate and construct a scaled steel bridge judged on stiffness, lightness, construction speed, display, efficiency and economy.

Canoes aren’t the only concrete creations at the ASCE Ohio Valley Student Conference. UA also will participate in the  concrete horseshoe competition. Mike Cefaratti, above, is in charge of the concrete horseshoes.

"The idea is to optimize weight and deflection," says Weaver, explaining that the team takes a comprehensive approach to the bridge completion, beginning with AutoCAD design and finishing with parts fabrication and welding.  
The Concrete Canoe team is charged with designing a canoe made from concrete and demonstrating its merit based on canoe race results, a technical paper, an oral presentation, the canoe's aesthetic quality and its overall presentation.

"The objective is to build a high-quality boat with high-quality display items in order to make the lightest concrete canoe strong enough to support four paddlers and smooth enough to be a very fast boat," Feucht says. "It’s a challenge. It's kind of like building a lead balloon, something you would not think could float."
Feucht and Weaver say their team leadership roles have helped them see the projects from all sides, from construction management to design.
Winning teams of the two competitions will advance to national contests. The 2013 National Concrete Canoe Competition takes place June 20-22 at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, and the 2013 National Student Steel Bridge Competition takes place May 31-June 1 at the University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or