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Students Participate in Engineering Competitions

Contests Involve Building Concrete Canoe, Steel Bridge

UMass Lowell concrete canoe team
UMass Lowell’s 2010-11 concrete canoe team poses with “The Green Monster.”

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Two teams of UMass Lowell students participated in the recent concrete canoe and steel bridge regional competitions organized by the New England student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The students’ self-designed and built concrete canoe, dubbed The Green Monster, took home third-place honors in the races hosted by the University of Rhode Island (URI) at Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, R.I.

“UMass Lowell fielded a very competitive team and finished a strong third overall out of 14 teams, behind last year’s winner, Laval University from Quebec City, and the hometown team of URI,” says Dean John Ting of the Francis College of Engineering.

Other teams that competed this year included UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, Merrimack College, Northeastern University, the University of New Hampshire, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Roger Williams University, the University of Maine, Norwich University and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

“At the races, the team members wore baseball-themed shirts with a ‘JD’ logo, in memory of student Jeffrey Doyle who passed away last July and who had just joined the canoe team as a freshman last spring. Attending the races were his parents, Connie and Don Doyle, who donated funds toward the canoe team in Jeffrey’s memory,” says Ting.

Says Prof. Cliff Bruell, chair of the Civil Engineering Department: “Our ASCE student chapter competes annually in the Northeast regional concrete canoe competition. Each canoe must be built within the current academic year and must float while entirely full of water. The competition consists of various components, including design and fabrication, race results and oral and written presentations. Winning designs require innovation and teamwork on the part of the students.”

Listen to the team’s April 26 interview on Merrimack Valley Radio’s 980 WCAP.

‘The Hawkwalk’ Bridge

The student steel bridge competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, required civil engineering students to design and fabricate a scale model of a steel bridge according to the specifications in the contest’s rule book and then construct the model on-site during the competition. This year’s event was held at Laval University in Quebec.

The bridges were judged based on construction speed and economy, lightness, stiffness and structural efficiency as well as appearance and poster display.

UMass Lowell’s entry, called “The Hawkwalk,” was a steel girder bridge that spanned 21 feet long, two feet wide and weighed about 280 pounds.

“We ranked third in project economy — and fifth overall — out of 12 schools in our first try in more than 15 years,” says Ting.

First place went to the University of New Hampshire, followed by MIT, the Wentworth Institute of Technology and the University of Connecticut.

Other contestants included groups from Tufts University, Merrimack College, Laval University, UMass Amherst, Norwich University, the University of Maine and Northeastern University.

“The UMass Lowell students did an excellent job,” says civil engineering Prof. Susan Faraji. “As a team, they organized the project, raised the necessary funds, designed the bridge and performed very well in the competition.”

This year’s team was composed of 13 students — 12 males and one female, Alice Chao.

“All but two of them are civil engineering undergraduates,” says Faraji. “In addition, two other women accompanied the team — Lisa Juan presented a paper to the ASCE while Susannah Barnes was looking forward to being part of the team in next year’s competition.”

Profs. Don Leitch and Ed Hajduk of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department served as the school’s ASCE student chapter advisers. Laboratories Director Gary Howe was the concrete canoe team adviser while Prof. Faraji was the faculty adviser for the steel bridge team.

“The students were very dedicated to these competitions,” says Hajduk. “They actively applied engineering theories and concepts they learned in the classroom. These types of student contests are fantastic learning experiences for them, teaching them the value of teamwork, leadership and communications skills as well as actively illustrating how to integrate design and construction.”
UMass Lowell students competing in the student steel bridge competition
UMass Lowell civil engineering students race to assemble “The Hawkwalk” steel bridge at Laval University.
UMass Lowell's 2010-11 steel bridge team
The UMass Lowell 2010-11 steel bridge team with the completed Hawkwalk.