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Concrete canoe, concrete horseshoe, steel bridge competitions highlight student engineering conference at Idaho State University April 16-18

April 16, 2015
ISU Marketing and Communications

More than 300 civil engineering students from throughout the Pacific Northwest will visit Idaho State University April 16-18 to race their concrete canoes and test the mettle of their 20-foot steel bridges that they’ve been working on since last fall.

Yes, the canoes do float, and they’re probably tougher than some of the concrete horseshoes the visiting students will be chucking around at the 2015 Pacific Northwest American Society of Civil Engineers Student Conference hosted by the ISU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Students from 18 different universities from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia are coming to Southeast Idaho for this conference, which also features about 30 civil engineering professionals and 20 volunteers.

“Our students and faculty have worked hard to put this conference together. It has been a major undertaking,” said Andrew Sorensen, ISU assistant professor of civil engineering and one of the event organizers. “It has been 15 years since ISU last hosted this event. The two biggest events are the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions.”

There are several facets to the concrete canoe competition. On April 17 from 1 to 5 p.m., the canoes will be judged on their aesthetics and be subjected to a “swamp test” to see if they float on the ISU Hutchinson Quadrangle underneath the Pond Student Union Hypostyle. Then from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, the canoes will be raced at the Jensen Grove Park in Blackfoot.

“They all float,” Sorensen said. “The canoes have interesting concrete mixes and designs. They look sharp and are all painted. The student teams spend a lot of time and effort making them.”

For the steel bridge contest the students construct bridges that are approximately 4- to 5-feet wide and span 20 feet. The students have to bring the bridges in sections that are less than 3 feet. At the contest they are in a timed competition on putting these sections together and then the bridges are subject to weight testing to determine their deflection (how much they bend under an applied weight). The steel bridge contest runs from 2 to 5 p.m. on April 17 and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 18 in the Pond Student Union Ballroom.

Another highlight of the conference is the concrete horseshoe competition on April 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Hutchinson Quadrangle. Competitors will pitch their concrete horseshoes and be judged using standard horseshoe scoring as well as on the survivability of their horseshoes. Broken horseshoes will result in penalty points being applied to the scores.

For the conference’s environmental competition participants designed a water-purification system. Contaminated water will be passed through these systems to test how well contaminates are removed.

“We also had a food-drive competition prior to the conference. Participating schools collected canned goods and donated the food they gathered to their respective local food pantries. 1,657 pounds of food were collected,” Sorensen said.

ISU civil engineering students collected 282 pounds of food, which was donated to ISU’s Benny’s Pantry.


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