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News Release

UC San Students Lift 'Dow Jones' For Annual Engineering Competition

Mark Galvan (left), a UC San Diego structural engineering student, explains how he and his student team designed and built a concrete canoe that they will row in a competition in Hawaii.

San Diego, CA, March 23, 2009-- The ‘Dow Jones’ got a lift on Thursday, March 19 by structural engineering students at the University of California, San Diego. We’re not talking about the overall indicator of the condition of the Stock Market, but a handmade concrete canoe destined for Hawaii. A team of UC San Diego structural engineering students designed and built the 20-foot canoe as part of an annual collegiate conference and competition organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The event, held this year from April 2-4 in Hawaii, brings together civil and structural engineering students from 18 universities in the Pacific Southwest (Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii) who compete in various team-oriented competitions, including concrete canoe design and racing; steel bridge design and fabrication; concrete bowling and Frisbee; water purification and management; seismic structural design and construction; and engineering “Jeopardy.”

The UC San Diego student team began the design of their concrete canoe in July 2008. The group had to first do preliminary analyses of the canoe and then went over the design aspects based on their analyses. Next, they had to face all the construction and fabrication issues. The students had to work within the confines of a 76-page design rulebook, which included an innovation and sustainability component this year.

“We had to think outside of the box for design and material ideas,” said Mark Galvan, this year’s concrete canoe captain for UC San Diego’s chapter of the ASCE. Galvan, a Jacobs School structural engineering senior, explained that the students used a mix of rocks, water, cement, glass beads, wood and pieces of Styrofoam to build the canoe.

In order to get concrete with the exact properties they wanted, the students had to experiment with the ratios of aggregates, water, cement and “admixtures” which are chemicals that do specific things to the concrete. The density of the mix had to be around the density of water so that the canoe would be lighter than water and resistant to sinking.

Materials such as Styrofoam and aggregate glass beads that are lighter than waterwere placed inside the mix design, and so it enabled us to build a concrete-based canoe that is still strong but will also float better in the water,” Galvan said.

UC San Diego engineering students lift a homemade, 300-pound concrete canoe into a wooden crate destined for the Port of Long Beach. The canoe is being taken to Hawaii for an annual student competition run by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
On March 19, Galvan and his team lifted the 300-pound concrete canoe by hand and placed it into a wooden crate and then put it into a truck destined for the Port of Long Beach. The students lifted both the canoe and the crate by hand, with a total weight of about 700 pounds.

As for the name of the canoe, the ‘Dow Jones,’ Galvan said the team’s mantra is, “It can only go up from here.”

“What we want to show is that this downward spike of the stock market and economy that we’re experiencing is just a detail in time, and that over time the progression has been upwards. So even though we’re in hard times right now American ingenuity will find new opportunities to progress. We want to show how we as engineers can provide those new innovative solutions to help solve the problems that are faced today,” said Galvan.

The students on the concrete canoe team can take a technical elective for two quarters In addition to all the he learned from helping to design and build a concrete canoe from scratch, Galvan said that he learned a lot about project management, working on a team, and motivating team members.

“I’m excited to see that the students are being trained about the economics of engineering and experiencing basic project management issues,” said Lelli Van Den Einde, the advisor for the concrete canoe team and a lecturer in the Jacobs School’s Department of Structural Engineering.“They have pulled many all nighters…they slipped on the schedule and learned the implications of that.”

61 UC San Diego students, all members of the Society of Civil and Structural Engineers, are attending the conference and competing in at least one of the events listed below.

*Concrete Canoe

*Design, analysis, fabrication, testing and speed of assembling a 20-foot steel bridge structure.

*Technical paper on sustainable design to improve the environment.

*Concrete 'Ulu Maika,’ a spin-off to concrete bowling. Design on a bowling ball to knock down bowling pins. Ulu Maika is a more disk-like version of a bowling ball.

*Surveying - Accuracy in measuring certain distances.

*Environmental - Competition for water purification. Teams must devise a system of purifying the given contaminated water.

*Quiz bowl - ‘Jeopardy’ style competition.

*Impromptu - on the spot engineering problem solving.

*Scavenger hunt.

* Engineering Without Boarders bridge design. The design and analysis are done for a pedestrian bridge. The winning design is picked by the University of Hawaii and will be built in Nicaragua.

Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering