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ASU engineering club seeks to blend rowing and canoe building for stress-free success

American Society of Civil Engineers finds a way to combine academics and extracurriculars

Sophomore civil engineering major Connor Fegard and his teammate row down Tempe Town Lake on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

Sophomore civil engineering major Connor Fegard and his teammate row down Tempe Town Lake on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

In many cases, engineering — in all forms — is regarded as one of the most rigorous, time-consuming majors that a college student can undertake.

However, the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at ASU has a unique way of dealing with the stress of academics with the concrete canoe project. By using its acquired knowledge of concrete engineering, it creates functional canoes that students use in regional and national rowing competitions.

ASU senior Veronica Head, who is the co-project manager of the concrete canoe project, said she puts her academic background of civil and environmental engineering to use in order to construct the canoes.

“Civil engineering helps a lot,” she said. “When we are designing the canoe, we consider the structure, how much force it can take, and when it will break, so taking classes like structural analysis and other civil engineering classes also help with that, too. They coincide.”

Students involved with the club take lightweight aggregates, which include cement made partially of small glass beads and pour it into a mold, which creates a canoe. Then, the canoe is left to cure.

“We typically cure our boats from 28 days," Head said. "Concrete will reach its full strength at 28 days."

Once the curing process is finished, the team seals the canoe with a material which makes the boat waterproof.

Head said that this year’s model is currently in the design process and will weigh slightly more than last year’s model due to changes in ASCE’s competition code which call for less lightweight aggregates such as the tiny glass beads.

“I think this year’s canoe will be between 20 and 22 feet long and I estimate it will weigh around 300 pounds,” Head said.

Head said she has found that the concrete canoe club has more benefits than a competition between schools after being involved with the club for three years.

“It’s a win-win for us because it’s a professional organization,” she said. “It looks really good on our resumes, and it’s a great way to get involved, but it’s not work and it’s really fun.”

Hoyong Ryou, senior civil structural engineer and president of ASCE’s chapter at ASU is a co-captain of the concrete canoe team and explained what the club is all about.

“It is an engineering project,” he said. “We go through the design build, paddling and an oral presentation as well as reports during the actual competition.”

During the 2015 Regional ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition, ASU’s concrete canoe team placed third out of 18 teams.

“I like the competition. I like to win. I emphasize that a lot. And we did win,” Ryou said. “Competition is what drives me and it’s my favorite part.”

Ryou said that larger universities with a civil engineering program are usually the schools to compete in ASCE’s competition. Within each competition are a variety of different events, but most events involve two people per race.

In addition to being a co-captain of the team and president of the society, Ryou is also a senior at ASU and keeps to a rigorous academic schedule, but he continually finds time for the club.

“You just have to make time for it and organize as much as you can,” Ryou said. “But honestly, canoeing is more like a stress reliever to me.”

Connor Fegard is a sophomore at ASU and is also majoring in civil engineering. Having never paddled before, he took a gamble and found that paddling with the concrete canoe team is something he highly enjoys and recommends.

“It’s a good workout because (the canoe) is nearly 200 pounds, but it’s also really nice to end a busy school week a sunset on the lake with nice people,” Fegard said.

Reach the columnist at or follow @kaylakoch2018 on Twitter.

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