LOWELL -- It's not easy making the unsinkable out of the unthinkable. The Greek polymath Archimedes is said to have solved the mystery of buoyancy in a bathtub: If an object weighs less than the water it displaces, it won't sink. So you would think a concrete object as big as a canoe would sink instantly, right?
Well, 11 teams from prestigious universities around the country and Canada came together at UMass Lowell to compete in competitions consisting of civil engineering abilities on April 26-27. The event was held at UMass Lowell and included the 2014 Steel Bridge Competition and the Concrete Canoe Competition, both part of the New England regional American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Conference.
UMass Lowell was the first to hold both events in the same weekend in more than 20 years and they received a lot of positive feedback from participating schools. The student organizers of the event were UMass Lowell seniors Lora Sitha of Lowell and Greg McNeil of Shirley, both civil engineer majors, and the faculty adviser was Professor Edward Hajduk who has earned multiple degrees at UMass Lowell in civil engineering.
The teams that took part in the event came from University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Connecticut, Universite Laval of Quebec, University of Maine, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Merrimack College, University of New Hampshire, University of New Haven, Northeastern University, University of Rhode Island and Wentworth Institute of Technology. The UMass Lowell team consisted of 25 students while the other teams ranged from a dozen to two dozen students.
On Saturday, the Steel Bridge Competition consisted of each team assembling a bridge they had designed, and then presenting their design and construction. The teams were judged on how quickly they could assemble their bridge, its qualities and their presentation.
The following day, teams were judged on their canoe's design and quality as well as another presentation.
Jonathan Ernst, captain of UML's Concrete Canoe Team, has been managing the team for two years and explains that the most challenging part of the competition is the time management. "Something that you think will take a couple weeks to do, will end up taking a month," Ernst states.
The team's canoes were put to a "swamp test" to ensure they were qualified to race. The races were held at Bare Hill Pond in Harvard.
The results of the races along with the student presentations determined the winner of the event, which was the Universite Laval of Quebec. They will continue on to the national competition in June at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Pennsylvania. UMass Lowell placed second while Northeastern University came in third. The three teams received a trophy replicating a concrete canoe, in gold, silver, and bronze, all made by UMass Lowell civil engineering majors.
UMass Lowell's team is very proud of what it accomplished with its second place finish. According to team captain Jonathan Ernst, a civil engineer major, the team came in second place in all the races and first place for its final product as well as its presentation.
"Everyone's pretty proud of us including the staff and alumni. We are really proud of what we accomplished this year and our final product. I like the competition because it's well-rounded; it's not only physical, academic and mental but it also has an artistic aspect," says Ernst.