The Cal Poly Pomona Concrete Canoe Team is a year-round student organization formed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to design and build concrete canoes to compete in national competitions.
The Concrete Canoe Team competes in a number of competitions including the annual Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) and the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition. The team here at CPP has been competing since 1993.
The concrete canoe team describes itself on its website as “a goofy group of college students who love to have fun and create awesome concrete canoes. Although we are mostly comprised of civil engineering students, we are open to anyone who is interested in learning how we get these boats to float.”
Allan Arana, a fourth-year civil engineering student, is the current project manager alongside two faculty advisors, Giuseppe Lomiento and Neal Lynch. Arana has been an active member of the club for four years.
The concrete canoe competition is a four-part challenge with each part amounting to 25 percent of the final score.
“Everything is done by students,” Arana said. “You really get to apply the [CPP] ‘learn by doing’ motto. You not only get to learn engineering skills, you get to develop engineering skills.”
Judges score the final product of the concrete canoe for visual and theme aesthetics, a technical paper describing the breakdown of the building process of the canoe, an oral presentation by two students to present the technical paper and a paddling competition.
In its last April 2018 competition, the CPP Concrete Canoe Team placed sixth in the PSWC with its canoe El Dorado weighing in at 240 pounds with a length of 19.5 feet.
“Right now, we’re in the construction phase,” Arana said. “So, we just built a mockup. We had 30 people helping out to help cast the 8-foot section of the canoe.”
The team is funded by construction and engineering sponsors including DRC Engineering Inc., Pankow, CSI Electrical Contractors Inc. and Albert A. Webb Associates. The team has a budget of around $15,000 to $20,000. However, it will not use the entire budget because of sponsor donations.
Currently the team is constructing the $3,000 canoe mold and is expecting to cast its first canoe, Merlin the Wizard, on Dec. 1.
It will take around a month for the concrete in the canoe to begin solidifying before the team can begin the finish by sanding it.
“[We] can’t have a canoe longer than 23 feet, the longest width can’t be 3 feet long and, in our concrete, we have to use a specific type of material,” Arana said. “It [concrete] has to be 25 percent of our mix. You lose points if you don’t follow those rules.”
The team is also not allowed to paint the canoe because it can hide mistakes and structural flaws from judges. The team instead has to use pigmented concrete.
The Concrete Canoe Team is expecting to complete the construction phase in March before its first PSWC competition held at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo April 3–6, 2019, where the team will be competing against 18 other schools.
Teams that do well at the regional PSWC competition will move on to a national competition. The CPP Concrete Canoe club last qualified for nationals in 2014.
CPP last held the PSWC competition in 2012 at Bonelli Park in San Dimas.
The team practices paddling every Sunday at Bonelli Park or Newport Beach at 8 a.m.
Third-year civil engineering student Kevin Gonzales enjoys the time he spends working on the project.
“I heard about it at the club fair,” Gonzales said. “It’s a good experience and I’ve learned a lot so far.”
Arana estimates that the team puts in about 18 hours a week for the project.
The next team meeting will be held Nov. 8. For more information on the Concrete Canoe Team, email Arana at email@example.com or visit the team’s website at cppconcretecanoe.weebly.com/.
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