Concrete canoe races, bridge-building and more come to Illinois

concrete canoe races

A photo taken at last summer's concrete canoe national competition, hosted by the University of Illinois and held on campus and at Homer Lake.

Concrete canoe races and bridge-building competitions will be just part of the fun April 10-12 when the American Society of Civil Engineers Great Lakes Regional Conference competition comes to campus. Hosted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the event features students from 18 universities competing in eight different contests related to civil and environmental engineering.

The public is welcome at the two-day event, which includes concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions, as well as contests in surveying, materials engineering, environmental engineering, a quiz bowl, technical paper writing and a “Mystery Design” project. For that, students don’t learn what they have to design until they arrive on Thursday evening and must build something during the designated build time on Friday. This year’s Mystery Design competition is geotechnical, which refers to the engineering of earth materials and the interaction of human-made structures with the ground. Winners in the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions will advance to the national competition this summer. The other events are not held at the national level.

All events will take place Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, either on campus or at Homer Lake near Homer, Ill. A full schedule and additional information is available at the conference website:

Some highlights for spectators (all times are approximate):

  • Concrete Canoe races at Homer Lake will take place on Friday, April 11, beginning with canoe unloading at 6:30 a.m. Canoes will be displayed from 8-9:30 a.m. Swamp-testing, or submerging the canoes to make sure they float, will happen from 9:30-11 a.m. Canoe races will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. with a break for lunch from noon-1 p.m.
  • The Mystery Design competition will take place on Friday, April 11, from 3-5 p.m. at Homer Lake in the Salt Fork Center.
  • The Steel Bridge competition will take place on Saturday, April 12, in the Parkland College Gymnasium. Judging occurs at 8 a.m. and the competition runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • The Environmental competition and presentation will take place on Saturday, April 12, from 8 a.m.-noon in the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory crane bay and M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Student Center in Newmark Lab.
  • The Quiz Bowl will take place on Saturday, April 12, from 1-3 p.m. at the Yeh Student Center in Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory.

For more information, contact: Mark Keller, CEE undergraduate, event organizer: 815-931-1871.