The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

June 19, 2014

Floating their dreams | UPJ students vie in concrete canoe contest

JOHNSTOWN — We all know that concrete doesn’t float, right? But don’t tell that to a group of collegians who are out to prove everybody wrong.

Twenty-three teams of engineering students from across the country, along with students from China, will participate in the 2014 National Concrete Canoe Competition.

At stake is the America’s Cup of Civil Engineering.

A float-off will take place at the Quemahoning Reservoir, near Hollsopple, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

There’s one caveat, though. This isn’t the typical mix of portland cement, sand and aggregate.

“It's not your normal concrete,” Brian Houston, associate professor of civil engineering technology at Pitt-Johnstown, told Tribune-Democrat reporter Patrick Buchnowski.

This mixture, Houston explained, is composed of glass microspheres that have the appearance of sand yet are lighter than water.

The Pitt-Johnstown students will enter Essayons in the competition. Essayons, whose name comes from the French motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that means “Let us try,” is a

21 1⁄2-foot-long canoe that is 3 feet wide. And it weighs only 200 pounds.

It took 30 Pitt-Johns-town student engineers about 3,000 hours to design and build the canoe.

There will be an opportunity for the public to marvel at the watercrafts until 4 p.m. today on the UPJ Campus Mall near Blackington Hall.

The competition teaches collegians the rewards of working together as a team. It also allows them to apply the principles they learned in the classroom to the field.

And designing and creating a concrete canoe stretches the students’ knowledge, creativity and stamina. One of the team’s goals is to improve concrete technology and application.

At Pitt-Johnstown, engineering students are constantly looking to create better products and develop more effective methods of solving technology-related problems.

If you are still skeptical that concrete can float, then you owe it to yourself to take a drive to the UPJ campus and check out the creations.

And don’t forget to watch the local team in action as the students put their watercraft through the paces at the Que against teams from other universities.

Row, row, row your boat.

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