GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s may sound like a counter-intuitive construction project, but to the concrete canoe team at The Colorado School of Mines, it’s about finding a creative solution to a unique problem.

(credit: Adam Trujillo)

“I think everyone on the team has definitely like learned a lot about work ethic, and we’ve all stepped it up a lot. It’s hard, we’ve been in here a lot of late nights,” said Emmy Tran, Captain of the concrete canoe team.

Their hard work has paid off. For the first time ever, the Mines team is headed to Nationals for their concrete canoe design dubbed, “The Kraken.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Concrete Canoe Competition is a national challenge that brings together students from more than 200 universities from around the country. Each team is tasked with building a canoe made out of concrete, which is judged based on aesthetics, an oral presentation and performance races.

The Mines team has more than 2,000 hours of work put into their canoe.

“We’ve all been in the lab a lot, and we’ve gotten a lot of bonding in together!” laughed Tran.

(credit: CBS)

Not only have they become good friends throughout the process, but they have learned valuable skills for their future careers.

“I think everyone on the team has definitely like learned a lot about work ethic, and we’ve all stepped it up a lot. I know now how to stay in the office late. Like, it’s okay to not go home like you would an 8 hour job everyday.”

The long hours the team has put in are not over. They have some final touches to make and some serious packing to do before they hit the road. The national competition is in Florida and they plan to drive the canoe there.

Last year their canoe broke on the way to the regional competition. They have taken extra precaution to make sure it withstands the journey.

(credit: Adam Trujillo)

“So this year we actually constructed a new carrier, and we used some fire hose to hold some foam topping mattresses. We strapped it in there and snuggled it up like a burrito so we could get it to Boulder safely.”

The regionals were in Boulder where their unique design beat out several other states. Many of the teams use a lacquer finish often harmful to the environment. The Mines team decided to go a different route.

“We were trying to find other ways that were more sustainable to release from the concrete so we just decided to make a wood grain texture, but it did take a lot of testing, a lot of trial and error. We also used a spray-able concrete,” said Tran.

For nationals, the criteria is much the same. The teams have to show the judges not only that they can make it across the water, but they also have to show them what their concrete mixes contain and how much they weigh.

(credit: CBS)

“This white mix is actually what we used in our lettering. The red mix on the bottom is what we used for the tentacles, and it’s actually what we used for the full outside of the canoe, but we just used brown dye.”

The Mines team worked hard to go above and beyond the requirements.

“We’re hoping to impress people with wood grain texture because we think that’s the coolest most innovative part of our project,” Tran continued. “We do some non-conventional things too obviously like, using expanded glass beads which provide a lighter weight and density from the air.”

The team has received some funding from the school, but they are also hoping to raise more to cover travel expenses and entry fees for the national competition on June 6.

If you would like to help fund their trip, click here.

Jamie Leary

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