photo of Cal Poly SLO concrete canoe Andy McNeill
The Cal Poly SLO concrete canoe, "Oceana," races Monday during the ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships.

It’s lucky number seven for the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo concrete canoe team.

Cal Poly SLO earned first place overall in the concrete canoe competition finals during the first-ever ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships, June 10-12, at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.

The latest triumph extends Cal Poly SLO’s claim to the most championships in the 36-year history of the concrete canoe competition, after also winning in 2022, 2018, 2017, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

“This year we had a number of setbacks. So it’s been so amazing to be able to come back and compete at the same level that we did last year,” said Heather Migdal, Cal Poly SLO project manager.

“Last year was a whirlwind that I can’t quite describe. And coming back with the pressure to defend the championship, and just being able to put it back up there with so many hours, so much energy, and mental trauma, sort of, it makes it all worth it.”

This year, Cal Poly SLO’s canoe, named “Oceana,” was inspired by the kelp forests near San Luis Obispo and featured a special guest on its bow – an otter the team named “Ellie,” in honor of their practice canoe.

“There are elements starting from the surface with Ellie. As you move down, you follow the kelp to the ocean floor, where you see the starfish throughout. You see variations of species that do live in kelp forests,” said Sarah Scherzinger, Cal Poly SLO aesthetics lead.

“We have a couple [kelp forests] in the bay that are declining and are in need of protection. So we decided to tie that into our sustainability elements of the canoe.”

Following “Oceana” in the overall concrete canoe standings were Youngstown State University in second place, University of Florida in third, Universite Laval in fourth, and Western Kentucky University in fifth.

The Cal Poly SLO students were consistent in the races on Monday, placing in the top five across all lanes. They also won the technical proposal and technical presentation categories. Universite Laval claimed the R. John Craig Legacy Award. Youngstown State University earned first for the final product, and Rowan University was recognized with the innovation award.

The University of South Alabama, which was among the first-time qualifying schools, won the Spirit of the Competition Award. They proved their dedicated passion and excitement for ASCE and the competition, which was marked permanently in ink – a tattoo that their faculty adviser got while in Platteville during the finals weekend. (Hear the story behind it all on the ASCE Plot Points podcast.)

In addition to the annual concrete canoe competition, the weekend featured the Society-wide finals of the Sustainable Solutions Competition–Envisioning a New Downtown and the Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute Surveying Competition. (Read more about these competition winners later this week on the Civil Engineering Source.)

The Georgia Institute of Technology took home first place in the Sustainable Solutions Competition, with Louisiana Tech University in second, and UCLA in third.

Purdue University Northwest earned the overall title in the Surveying Competition, followed by Utah State University in second, and Oregon State University in third.

While the weekend was jam-packed with events across the three competitions, it all culminated in experiences that proved invaluable to many of the students.

“There’s so many leadership skills and soft skills you’re going to gain from a competition like this. The technical stuff at concrete canoe is really cool. As a civil engineering nerd, we love our concrete,” said Migdal.

“There’s so much passion and love for what we do and this project, that no matter what happens over the weekend, it creates lasting memories and lasting friendships that honestly do change your life,” said Scherzinger.

photo of Cal Poly SLO concrete canoe
The back-to-back concrete canoe champs.