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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Civil Engineering Students Make History

By Keith Pierce

Traveling nearly 50 hours on a 3,000-mile journey towing a 300-pound hunk of concrete may not sound like fun to most, but for a group of civil engineering students at Old Dominion University, it was the chance of a lifetime.

For the first time in its history, ODU won a wild-card invitation to compete among twenty-five teams of civil engineering students from the United States, Canada and China at the National Concrete Canoe Competition.

The 31st annual event was organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and held at San Diego State University. A school must have a recognized ASCE student chapter or ASCE International Student Group to compete.

Teams design, build and race concrete canoes for a chance to win the America's Cup of Civil Engineering, as well as academic scholarships.

To qualify for the wild-card draw, ODU had to finish in the top 50 percent of its region, score in the top third on its annual report and complete a statement of interest. Six out of 32 wild-card qualifying teams were then selected at random.

Judges evaluated teams on design and construction, a technical design paper, an oral business presentation and the final product, as well as race results.

"It's kind of a miracle that we're even here," said Kent Andrews, civil engineering senior and co-captain. "We got picked in a wild-card draw, drove 50 hours from coast to coast, nothing went wrong and nothing happened to the canoe - it all just worked out really well."

The concrete canoe competition began in the 1960s as a fun pastime before the ASCE made it an official part of its schedule and divided the country into regions.

Though the races are the most exciting part of the three-day event, they count for only 25 percent of each team's overall score. The Monarch Tide didn't place this year, but Andrews says he was pleased with ODU's results.

"Given the time we had, I think we did a phenomenal job preparing and practicing. The camaraderie was great," he said. "Our mindset was 'Don't come in last,' and we didn't."

Sarah Bohn, a civil engineering sophomore and team co-captain, was especially excited to experience the "full wrap of what engineering is" through the competition.

"For ODU to see this is pretty awesome," Bohn said. "Especially being the only school in Virginia to make it."

See more in this brief video: https://youtu.be/DpJ10aBiRYo

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