Rowing on to nationals
Student engineers from more than a dozen western universities gathered in late March for a weekend of ambitious civil and environmental engineering competitions. Berkeley was the host campus for this year’s Mid-Pacific Regional Conference, put on by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
At Quarry Lakes in Fremont, concrete canoe teams raced in heats. Berkeley’s team, aboard their new canoe GraffiCal 2.0, came in second place. Along with first-place winner University of Nevada, Reno, Berkeley advances to the 25th annual National Concrete Canoe Competition in Reno in mid-June.
Back in September, in the basement of Davis Hall, team members experimented to find the best materials for the canoe and tested them for strength. They first tried a combination of Portland cement with a lightweight aggregate of recycled glass beads called poraver. They made the mixture into cylinders the size of soup cans, and subjected them to 1,000 psi of pressure in a compressor.
Berkeley Engineering’s concrete canoe and steel bridge competition teams and other engaging student activities like them are made possible each year by funds from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Student Leadership Endowment (CEESLE).
Charles and Janet Seim have generously donated a $100,000 gift for a challenge match in an effort to raise funds for CEESLE. Every donation to CEESLE will be matched dollar for dollar by the Seims’ gift fund.
“We wanted the canoe to be as light as possible, but not too weak,” said project manager Frank Qian, a CEE junior.
But when the team returned from winter break they found shrinkage cracks in the hull. The team conducted a paddle test and saw that moisture had accumulated inside the vessel.
“It got wet, but it didn’t break,” said Robby Ward, also a CEE senior, who helped manage this year’s group of paddlers. “We had six weeks to build a new canoe.”
On race day, when two men and two women paddled the canoe in the co-ed sprint, the canoe sank to water level in back, but held up fine.
“We put so much work into these canoes, and they’re pretty fragile,” said Telind Bench, a CEE senior who heads this year’s construction crew. Last year, Bench was in the truck that drove the canoe to nationals in Indiana. “Every time we went over a bump, I’d wince,” he recalls.
While paddlers raced in Fremont, other Mid-Pac competitions were underway on campus. Near the Campanile, the water treatment team constructed pre-designed water filters and tested them with dirty water. GeoChallenge teams designed and built models of mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls. This year’s transportation group presented proposed designs for a new spaceport facility. In the lobby of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, steel bridge teams displayed model bridges designed according to the specs of a mock client—the owner of a recreation resort on a river that is a protected natural resource.
Berkeley’s steel bridge team came in first, and advances to nationals at Clemson University in South Carolina in mid-May. The water treatment team placed second in their competition.