ASCE students sweep competition
After years of watching their chances sink, OSU brings home several awards
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
It seems the days of sinking canoes are over for the Oregon State University chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
OSU ASCE brought home several awards from the Northwest student conference hosted by University of Washington last weekend, the most notable of which was a first place in the concrete canoe races, which earned them a spot at Nationals in June.
Co-captain Monica Morales, a senior in civil engineering, said this is the first time in 20 years that OSU has qualified for nationals, which will be held in Reno, Nev.
“We’ve always been the underdogs and its finally gratifying,” said Morales, who has been a member of the team for four years. “My freshman year our canoe just crumbled, so we’ve come so far.”
There were multiple divisions of the Seattle competition apart from the concrete canoe competition These included the steel bridge contest, in which participants are timed as they construct a bridge, as well as a paper presented before judges. There is a game of tug-of-war, which the OSU team also won, and a concrete horseshoes contest, in which they placed second.
With regards to the canoe team, Tom Miller, faculty advisor for the OSU ASCE chapter and assistant head of civil engineering at OSU, agreed there has been a definite improvement over the last several years.
“The last probably four to five years they’ve improved each year, and this year was the best we’ve ever done,” Miller said.
Within the canoe competition there are four elements that participants are judged on: races, final product, technical report and presentation. The races themselves were also split into separate divisions; men’s, women’s and co-ed teams competed in the sprint division and the endurance division.
After placing well in the separate division and all elements of competition, the OSU concrete canoe team placed first overall.
It was not easy, however. Morales said there were several mishaps in the co-ed sprint division, including capsizing of the canoe once it hit the wakes of surrounding motorboats and structural damage done by the rescue boat.
“Since the police had created destruction, they said that we were allowed to use duct tape without any penalty,” Morales said.
Once the canoe had undergone sufficient repairs, Miller said it beat the finishing times of all other competitors by five seconds.
Now in her second year as an OSU ASCE member, co-captain Lori Vollmer said the team has improved by “leaps and bounds.”
“There were aspects that we were better at last year, but we still maintained that level of greatness,” Vollmer said, citing the fact that while the OSU chapter didn’t place in the design report competition last year, they placed first this year. “Our goal was to go to nationals, it says a lot about the teams dedication.”
Jessy Cawley, senior in civil engineering at OSU, presented and answered judges’ questions about her paper on “Globalization and Engineering Ethics.”
“One of the biggest points was that there are lots of people affected by our projects who are not necessarily at the design table,” Cawley said about her presentation, adding that she thought the competition offered positive competition. “It was so great to be surrounded by so many people who are passionate about what they do.”
As students in ASCE compete in several projects and competitions throughout the year, training and preparation is a year-long ordeal.
“They’ve been practicing paddling the whole academic year, practicing paddling for their races and working out physically to do better as they’re working on making the canoe,” Miller said.
Morales said members are busy setting groundwork, having meetings, creating technical designs and physically training from fall to April for the conference.
“Concrete canoe hasn’t gotten much respect,” Morales said. “Now, because of that hard work, we made that respect happen.”
And just because the Northwest conference is over does not mean the work is.
“Right now we’re figuring out the logistics and our paddlers will continue to practice and workout,” Vollner said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’ll make it work.”
Miller was enthusiastic about the way OSU ASCE as a whole was represented last weekend.
“It shows our students work very well in teams and can excel in the technical and nontechnical aspects of the contest,” Miller said.
OSU will be hosting the 2013 Northwest competition.
On Twitter: @Joce_DeWitt