When people think of a canoe, they usually think of a long, narrow boat made of wood or metal. Typically, they will not think of making a canoe out of something else. But a club on campus has challenged that feat by making canoes out of concrete.
The Cal Poly Pomona Concrete Canoe Team is a team that builds a concrete canoe and and participates in national competitions.
The team works throughout the entire academic year, starting in the summer and ending at the beginning of spring quarter to compete in a regional competition.
The team is in the process of finishing up the canoe.
“We’ve currently just pulled off the molds for the canoe, and we’re planning to finish some of the exterior aesthetics, such as the staining and the sealing,” said Natalie La, a fifth-year civil engineering student who is the club’s secretary and aesthetic design captain. “We’re finishing up construction, and getting ready for an oral presentation and other aspects of the competition.”
The team has to build a new canoe every year, and they work on improvements to make it stronger.
“The canoe, this year, is 19 1/2 feet long,” said La. “It’s decreased a little bit since last year’s canoe. We found that making it shorter makes it easier to turn. I know that was a problem we had last year.
“We’ve shortened the tip of the canoe this year, so that the back peddlers have an easier time paddling, and we could just rotate the arm really easily versus extending the arm.”
Fourth-year civil engineering student Edmund Goh has been part of the club for two years. He is this year’s project manager.
“One of the main reasons why I, personally, chose this club is because it’s interactive,” said Goh. “You actually learn how you use what you learned in the classroom in an actual engineering project.”
Members need to pass special qualifications to become a member in this club.
“[The team is exclusive to] anybody who can take the Entry Engineering License Test that all engineers have to take,” said Goh. “The majority of the members are civil engineering, because most of it is related to civil engineering, but we do open it up to any major.”
The team will compete in the regional competition at the University of Arizona. If it places first or second, they will go on to the national competition in South Carolina. Past competitions have boded well for the team.
“We’ve gone to nationals consecutively for at least for the past six years,” said Goh. “We’ve ranked top five nationally twice. Regionally, we’re always first or second.”
For both national and regional competitions, the criteria consist of the same four components: a technical paper outlining the whole project, a five-minute presentation, a race in the canoe, and a display of the canoe to the judges.
The team runs into many problems when dealing with the canoe’s construction.
“It’s an engineering project, so things are always going to go wrong,” said Goh. “The big problem that we have different from other clubs is our project is a lot more expensive. We have to work a lot with industry, as well as our own finances.”
Jenna Dwyer, a fourth-year civil engineering student, has also been in the team for two years. Dwyer, who helps with paddling, the presentation and the technical paper, is very passionate about being a part of the team.
“You’re a part of a project, and you put [in] so much time,” said Dwyer. “You put so many hours [and] so much commitment [into it] that it really just creates a bond between everyone. Everyone seems to connect, especially on those late nights or just the amount of time per week that we spend with each other. It really creates a second family.”