UB ASCE's concrete canoe team places inside top 20 at national competition

Concrete Canoe team 2021.

UB ASCE's concrete canoe team testing its canoe

By Peter Murphy

Published August 3, 2021

After winning the regional competition in spring, UB’s American Society of Civil Engineers’ (UB ASCE) concrete canoe team placed 17th in the national competition.

Building on historic success

“The main thing that we want to accomplish this year is winning regionals again, and be able to compete in nationals. ”
Melissa Olsen, UB ASCE Concrete Canoe Project
Senior, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

The first-place regional finish in April was the best for the club in almost 20 years. According to last year’s project manager Riley Blasiak, the team had to switch gears quickly and prepare for the national competition. 

“After the regional competition, we made revisions to our project proposal and enhanced focused areas of the report based on feedback that we received from our peer review schools,” Blasiak says. “In early June, we began revising our presentation and practicing for the competition.”

The national competition featured more teams competing at a higher level. There were four different criteria, including the final summary. UB ASCE ranked 15 in the technical presentation category and 17 in three others: technical proposal, enhanced focus area and final summary.

For Melissa Olsen, an incoming junior who will serve as the project manager next year, participating in the national competition was special. “The national competition was a new learning experience. Since there are schools from around the country, you get to see different methods and tactics,” Olsen says. “Watching other schools’ presentations helped us spark new ideas for our team next year. In addition, being able to compete at the national level for something you have put so much work into for the past year is very rewarding.”

The team leads will meet toward the end of August to discuss goals for the 2021-2022 academic year and develop a plan to reach specific objectives throughout the year. Practices and other design meetings for the concrete canoe team will start as soon as the semester begins. There will be several methods carried over to this year’s team from last year’s, according to both Blasiak and Olsen. One specific area the team hopes to maintain its momentum in is communication, says Olsen. 

“Communication was our best practice across the team. We knew exactly what needed to happen and what each individual needed to accomplish,” Olsen says. “I believe that communication with anything contributes to any success. For next year, I will make sure that communication remains a priority and that everyone is on the same page. This will help us come up with efficient ways for our hands-on elements.”

Olsen hopes to build on the team’s success for the 2021 academic year. “The main thing that we want to accomplish this year is winning regionals again and be able to compete in nationals.” Olsen says, “If we are able to get to nationals again, we would like to place higher than we did this year. We also want to maintain a higher member retention. Having more members allows us to come up with more ideas, and will set the team up for success in the future.”