With Brains and Brawn, NJIT Paddles to a First in the Concrete Canoe Regional Competition

The winning concrete canoe team with the Viking-inspired Valhalla.

NJIT placed first overall in the metropolitan regional round of the Concrete Canoe National Competition, winning categories ranging from design presentation to the men's sprint in a closely contested meet against six other universities, including NYU-Polytechnic School of Engineering, CCNY, and Rutgers University.

The win advances the team of civil engineering students – and their 20-foot Viking-inspired boat, Valhalla – to the Canoe Nationals at Clemson University in South Carolina in June.The competition is organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Kristina Espineli ’16, of Rockaway, a team co-captain, described the Valhalla as light, sturdy and flexible, constructed from a concrete mix of 56.8 lbs. per cubic foot.

“It took off well and turned well,” she said. “We started working on the hull design last year, listening to our rowers’ feedback. We also adjust from year to year based on what we learn.”

Of the name, she noted, “The Viking longboat was a cool boat and it inspired us.”

Andrew Margiotta ’16, of Colts Neck, a team co-captain, credited the construction leads, Sherif Kishk ‘16, of Bridgewater, Oscar Chaves ’15, of Newark, and Ed Ricciardi ’16, of Newark, with fabricating the boat’s “flawless wooden mold.”

In celebrating the victory, the team’s faculty advisor, John Schuring, noted the many skills it takes to win what he calls a “multifaceted” competition, including a paper on the boat design, a power point presentation of the team’s work, the canoe itself, and then several races to test its endurance and speed. In their paper, students describe the hull design, the concrete mix design and testing, their construction methods, and the team’s management structure. Following their presentation to a panel of three judges, they must impress during a rigorous cross examination.

“In this respect it mimics the challenge of a civil engineering project quite closely. This year the NJIT team showed good strength in all four of these scoring categories, which was the key to their victory. They posted high marks in their design paper, design presentation, and final product,” added Schuring, a professor in the John A. Reif, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). “But the final outcome came down to the afternoon canoe races.  In an exciting finish, our NJIT paddlers clinched the overall victory by winning the Men’s Sprint!”

Margiotta, in turn, gave a nod to the team’s advisers, including Schuring, Heidi Young, coordinator of the CEE department, and Andrew Flory, the CEE laboratory supervisor, for steering the project over the 10 months and 3,655 man-hours it took to design and build it.

The victory on Sunday came on the heels of a dramatic win the day before by another team of NJIT civil engineers, which swept the regional round of the 2015 National Student Steel Bridge Competition, besting rivals for the tenth year in a row. That team now heads to the national competition in May.

Tracey Regan