UMD Concrete Canoe Team Celebrates Second Consecutive ASCE Mid-Atlantic Win

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"Whiskey River"

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s (CEE) Concrete Canoe team celebrated its second consecutive first-place victory at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Mid-Atlantic Regional Competitions.

Hosted April 22-24 at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., the competition showcased the University of Maryland’s drive as the team placed first in both the races and the design paper category, and second in the product display category. The win qualifies the University of Maryland for its second consecutive visit to the national Concrete Canoe competition, taking place this year at the University of Texas – Tyler, June 9-11.

Led by project managers Danielle Neumeister and Demetra Tzamaras (B.S. ’16), the team based the design of this year’s canoe around an outside-the-box theme: a 1920s speakeasy. Dressed in era-appropriate fashion, the members of this year’s team introduced spectators to this year’s canoe – named "Whiskey River"– with the hope that their performance in the regional competition would reflect the spirit of resilience and liveliness so commonly associated with the Roaring Twenties.

"Each year, I am proud of the [ASCE Maryland] members who are instrumental to our success," Neumeister said. "This is such a large project to complete and it’s great to watch students who just stop by [the team] once and then, before you know it, they are with you, covered in dust until late in the night. I am so proud of everyone for their hard work."

The team’s steadfast determination to win was made all the more evident by how the members handled a new change to ASCE's Concrete Canoe Rules and Regulations, Tzamaras noted.
"This year, the [new rules] prohibited the use of concrete stain – which is how we have historically created designs on our canoe," she said. "As a result, we had to develop an aesthetics layer purely for visual purposes. There was definitely a lot of trial and error along the way but, in the end, we were very happy with the resulting canoe."

Both Neumeister and Tzamaras stressed how spending their year bringing "Whiskey River" to life helped them connect with the CEE community.

"I got involved with the Concrete Canoe team last year when I first transferred to the University of Maryland,” Neumeister said. "As a transfer student, I was recommended to join an organization and, as a civil engineering student, the obvious choice was either the Steel Bridge or Concrete Canoe team… It's amazing watching the whole project start from nothing and then, somehow, in the end it all works out."

"I first got involved in Concrete Canoe during my sophomore year at the University of Maryland," Tzamaras said. "I began by attending a concrete mix day, and everyone there was so welcoming. I really enjoyed how the project was so hands-on, so I continued to stay involved."

The following year, Tzamaras served on the team's executive board as an assistant mix design engineer, and by the end of the year, she had grown to love the project so much that she applied to be one of this year’s project managers, she said.

Moving forward, the members of this year's team hope to build on their success at the national competition. Last year marked the first time in 12 years that the University of Maryland team won regionals, and they landed in a respectable 18th place on the national stage. This year, the team is on the hunt for a higher placement.

"Now that we have achieved the goal of going to Nationals, the next step is to continue to do even better this year than we did last year," Tzamaras said. "We hope to continue to build the legacy of the Concrete Canoe team and continue to strengthen the program."

This year's Concrete Canoe team received corporate support and technical assistance from Structural Group, as well as several other firms that have served as long-time supporters. Additionally, the race team received valuable coaching tips from alumnus Carl Gutschick (B.S. '75), a former world-class competitive paddler.

Adding to her success at Philadelphia, Neumeister teamed up with four other UMD students to establish an American Concrete Institute (ACI) chapter this year and participate in the technical society’s new concrete mix design competition.

The team, which consisted of Neumeister, Brandon Quinn, Patrick Katafiasz, Marshell Markham, and Brian Gausman, was tasked with creating several concrete cylinders with a goal to design a batch that had a strength as close to 7,000 psi as possible. The team placed second, but their batch had the most consistent strength results in the competition.

All five team members received scholarships in addition to funds to help support the Concrete Canoe team's travel to Texas. 

Published June 6, 2016