AMHERST, Mass. - Civil engineering students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will host the New England regional concrete canoe race and competition Sun. April 27 at the Oxbow Marina in Northampton. At least six concrete canoes will be launched and raced by teams from regional colleges; the best time for photographs will be from 10 a.m. to noon. The event will be held rain or shine.
The concrete canoe competition is an annual student engineering event with new canoes made every year, according to that year''s specifications. This year''s UMass Amherst entry is just under 22 feet long and weighs 175 pounds. UMass Amherst has fielded a concrete canoe team almost every year since 1974, and the basics of the project - concrete mixes analysis, strength of materials and material testing, project management, and finances - are skills needed by civil engineers.
The canoes will be judged for design, construction, presentation, and race standings. The races themselves work the way any nautical race might, with heats of four teams vying for top spot in the 200-meter men''s sprint, women''s sprint, and co-ed sprint, and the 600-meter men and women''s endurance.
Sixteen UMass Amherst civil engineering students have been working on the canoe and competition. The design for the canoe was started in October, with construction beginning in early February.
The design and construction phase tests everything the engineering students have learned in the classroom. "It''s a really good experience," says team member Liz Abbanat, a senior in civil engineering and a member of Commonwealth College. In engineering "you learn how to mix concrete, how to test it, how to design, and it''s all theoretical even though you learn procedure. So we take all of these things we learn and apply it. That''s what engineering is all about - problem solving."