University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Concrete Canoe Team Places 9th Nationally

Concrete Canoe team with Ascension


Pitt-Johnstown’s Concrete Canoe team placed ninth in the nation at the 2018 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Concrete Canoe Competition (NCCC), held June 23-25, at San Diego State University in San Diego, CA.

The event was won by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

While Pitt-Johnstown’s ranking tied the school’s previous top showing, it also scored more points than ever (18.7). The team’s highest placement among the 10 categories was sixth place in final product.

The canoe, named Ascension had won the Mid-Atlantic Student Conference in April to qualify for nationals. Pitt-Johnstown has sent eight teams to the NCCC in the past 11 years.

The 2018 team's 28 members, comprised mostly of Pitt-Johnstown Engineering Division students, included: Antonette Augustine, Gabrielle Barclay, Laura Bivens, William Dam, Laurel Donatelli, Alice Gotwald, Dominic Greives, Christopher Houston, Joseph Hullihen, Jonathan Hunchik, Alexa Janikowski, Savanna Johns, Christopher Joseph, Crystal Kaczmarczyk, Michelle Karnavas, Ashley Kushner, Troy Luchau, Danielle Majetic, Jordan Matus, Alexandra Maughan, Richard Orr, Ian Ostrowski, Joseph Pavia, Victoria Ruiz Lopez, Andrew Seeger, Brett Sherbine, Rachel Stockert, and Justin Towsey.

Towsey, a junior, was project manager, with sophomores Orr and Matus assisting. Johns, a senior, served as compliance officer and in three other areas.

Various team roles were broken down with the following assignments:

  • mix design, Stockert and Furukawa;
  • structural design, Shopene;
  • presentation design, Majetic;
  • quality control, Johns and Stockert;
  • hull design, Rouser;
  • design paper, Karnavas;
  • inventory, Sherbine;
  • display, Karnavas and Houston;
  • mold construction, Seeger and Rouser;
  • safety, Donatelli and Johns;
  • research and development, Pavia and Johns; and
  • paddling coaches, Majetic, Matus, and Pavia.

Faculty advisor Brian Houston, an associate professor of civil engineering and the team's academic advisor for 14 years, noted that: “In 2007, UPJ made its first appearance at the NCCC. There have since been eight other national contenders as the team makes continued progress, having risen from a 20th-place finish to ninth.

“This team activity, representing the academic rigor of the program at UPJ as well as the practical skill set of the students, has afforded them the opportunity of travelling the USA to places like Seattle, Tuscaloosa, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Champaign, Evansville, Golden, and Reno.”

The team chaperone was Maxine Mains.

Pitt-Johnstown will host the regional conference in April 2019 and NCCC 2019 will be hosted by the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, FL, in June.

The ASCE states the event challenges the students' knowledge, creativity, and stamina, while showcasing the versatility and durability of concrete as a building material.

The competition annually provides students with a practical application of the engineering principles they learn in the classroom, along with important team and project management skills they will need in their careers, according to the ASCE. 

According to Popular Science, concrete can be made to float if it is shaped like a boat. A boat-shaped or hollow object will displace a volume of water greater than the actual volume of solid material in the object. The object is said to be buoyant when it floats due to low density.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.