HYRUM -- A concrete canoe race is not about whose canoe sinks fastest.
The canoe race at Hyrum Dam was the centerpiece of the Rocky Mountain American Society of Civil Engineers regional conference in Logan on Saturday. The concrete canoe races are part of the oldest civil engineering competitions in the country.
Concrete that is used to make a canoe is more complicated than the concrete poured for the foundation of a house. Concrete here is made from cement and may also include tiny glass beads, sand and sometimes Styrofoam.
Part of the competition is to create the lightest craft possible, said Ken Rainwater, director, Water Resources Center at Texas Tech University and adviser for the American Society of Civil Engineers committee for student members. Another aspect of the canoe design is to create a boat that will not turn over easily or sink if it's swamped.
"We want to keep the death count as low as possible," Rainwater said.
Every canoe has a name and a theme -- Utah State University entered Canoebis, which had an Egyptian theme and was named for Anubis, a jackal-headed god of funerals. Brigham Young University entered the Asian-themed Pearl Dragon.
The University of Utah's canoe was the talk of the conference after it cracked in the middle, then broke when the team tried to load it back onto the truck. The U of U team then made two small canoes by packing Styrofoam in what were now the sterns of the boats and sealing the other cracks with black duct tape. The boats were striped like zebras.
Students from 14 western universities followed an 80-page rulebook for the acceptable design and materials for the canoes. Teams were judged on a technical report, an oral presentation, the aesthetics of the canoe itself and then five canoe races.
The rules change a little bit every year, so the university students need to do more than rely on past success, said Gilberto Urroz, USU student adviser for the civil engineering society. Urroz has advised the canoe competitors for the past 24 years.
Utah State began participating at the regional level in 1989 and has won the past two regional competitions. The university did not do as well at nationals because two California poly technical schools had bigger, more broad-shouldered paddlers, Urroz said.
USU's team has worked on its canoe since August, said Mitch Dabling, USU senior engineering student and captain of the 26-member canoe team.
USU's craft this year has a unique curvy structural design, so it looks more like a traditional ship's hull.
Students at the Colorado School of Mines built two canoes so rowers could practice with one while the other craft was completed, because a concrete canoe does not handle the same way as a fiberglass one, said Candy Sulzbaca, CSM teaching professor.
The Colorado team also used a plasma cutter for the form so it was even and perfect, she said. Sulzbaca spoke as she watched the competition from the top of a hill overlooking Hyrum Reservoir.
"... And there's our girls, winning," she said.
USU's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department coordinated the event, which rotates among the competing universities. USU will not host the competition again until 2025.
Other schools competing at the reservoir included Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, United States Air Force Academy, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of New Mexico and University of Wyoming.