If you’ve never been to one of ASCE’s National Concrete Canoe Competitions, I have to tell you it was very serious fun! Hanging out with the students, advisors, sponsors and hosts was special for me because it was held on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ), not far from where I grew up in Central Pennsylvania.
After taking part in the awards ceremony at the Saturday night banquet, a very special group of students from Tongji University who traveled all the way from Shanghai, China to compete presented me with a silver platter engraved with Chinese symbols to commemorate this year’s event. I might add that their concrete canoe had to be specially designed for the long journey from Shanghai to Johnstown, more than 7,300 miles!
And the media attention was unreal. Having not spent much time in front of a camera growing up in the area some 40 years ago, the competition was big news locally and all of a sudden cameras and microphones were everywhere! All the local media were present including the local affiliates of ABC, NBC and CBS, a local radio station and a local newspaper. Despite the rain, the media interviewed me, some of the students, and our UPJ host Brian Houston. And when the state legislator representing Johnstown, Bryan Barbin, came by to hear the oral presentations, we chatted about the complexities involved in crafting a boat that floats out of concrete and how great the folks at UPJ had done hosting the competition.
But most of all, the competition was incredibly inspiring. From leadership and management to design and construction, crafting a winning concrete canoe is the ultimate opportunity to merge classroom learning with real world experience. In addition to showcasing their technical excellence, the students at the 2014 competition exemplified teamwork, cooperation, resilience, and compassion. Congratulations to the winning team from the University of Nevada, Reno and this year’s ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition participants. We can all be proud of the next generation of civil engineers.