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College concrete canoe race hits Mission Bay

An engineering challenge amongst some of the biggest Universities in Southern California and beyond took place Friday morning in De Anza Cove.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably think there was a full-blown regatta happening in De Anza Cove on Mission Bay on Friday morning. 

Students from 14 colleges and universities from Southern California and Hawaii, screaming on their canoers as they paddle through the course in a race against the clock.

But instead of canoes made of aluminum, fiberglass, or really anything that might make them faster. 

These boats are made with something that famously sinks.

"I think when people hear about this club, initially they're like, 'concrete canoe, can concrete float?'" said Huison Tran, the concrete canoe race coordinator for UCSD.

It's his job and a team of UCSD School of Engineering students to make a 20-foot, re-enforced concrete canoe that can support the weight of four people and also row it to victory against the other schools.

But of course, many things can and will go wrong during the race. 

Not only is a rigid, more than 300-pound cement boat prone to cracking, but it’s also very hard to row. 

Which is why problem solving and carful engineering is the name of the game.

"Working with teams, working with project deadlines, project goals, getting to know what to do when you're giving a set of directions and restraints," said Raymond Chu, the student coordinator for the Pacific Southwest Symposium.

A weekend long conference with lectures and competitions put on by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s the first one since COVID and UCSD is the host this year.

"It's just very nice to have people coming out, having fun and just reconnecting with each other," said Chu. "Because I know over the last two years, a lot of us have felt disconnected with school, with our classmates...and with the college experience, because we've been remote all the time,"

While designing the fastest concrete canoe might not be the most practical use of engineering talents, the team building, designing, and problem-solving skills involved definitely have real world applications. 

It’s also a chance for some school spirit, if that floats your boat.

The overall winner of the race will be announced Saturday, April 2 at the awards banquet at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. 

WATCH RELATED: Middle schoolers from all over San Diego County gather talk about mental health (March 2022)

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