KU students competing in civil engineering contests

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Engineering students are competing this weekend in events for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Mid-Continent Conference, which is April 19-21 in Lincoln, Neb.

The canoe team, led by Capt. Andrew Petz, a senior in civil engineering, created a watercraft constructed primarily of concrete.  The Jayhawk team created a mold of a canoe from polystyrene foam and Masonite board, then mixed, poured and applied a layer of concrete to the mold. The concrete must set for four to six weeks to ensure the material properly forms and strengthens, before the mold is removed.  Team members use this time to work on other aspects of the competition, including an oral presentation and design paper that will be submitted to a panel of judges.

In addition to the right design and a strong presentation, Petz said a key element to the team’s prospect of success is how well the crew can navigate a canoe in open water. Two weeks before the competition, the team went to Clinton Lake to practice with a canoe from a previous year.

“We keep hearing that the most important thing is the skill of the paddlers and being able to navigate the canoe.  So our goal is to build something that meets the requirements of the competition, that won’t break and will float,” Petz said.

The 10 members of the KU team who will make the trip to regionals are vying for a spot at the ASCE’s national Concrete Canoe Competition, June 14-16 in Reno, Nev.

In another conference event, five Jayhawks comprising KU's steel bridge team will construct a small-scale bridge over an area of the competition floor designated as a river.  Points are awarded based on how much weight the bridge can support, how sturdy it is when pushed or pulled, and how quickly it is assembled.

“We are really going to work on being fast.  We’ve built the bridge for speed and lightness this year,” said Daniel Nagati, a graduate student in civil engineering and steel bridge team captain.

Nagati estimates the KU bridge would cost between $4 million and $5 million in "real-world: dollars, will take 10 minutes to construct and will support – or in civil engineering terms, deflect – up to 2,000 pounds.

“We’re building our bridge in two layers, more of a truss this year, so it should give us really good deflection,” Nagati said, who was part of the Jayhawk team that finished in the top three at last year’s regional and advanced to the 2011 national competition.
The team is vying for a return to nationals, which will be May 25-26 at Clemson University.