Buzzing at the Top: Concrete Canoe Wins Back-to-Back National Championships

The University of Florida’s Concrete Canoe design team has done it again: they have won the American Society of Civil Engineer’s (ASCE) National Concrete Canoe Competition for the second consecutive year. This year, the team faced a different challenge, which was to compete at the ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition virtually.  

The competition was held from June 25 to 27 at University of Wisconsin–Platteville. UF’s team chose to center their design theme around a topic that focused on a vital matter by naming themselves Polligator. 

“Polligator came from our team’s desire to choose a topic that brought attention to an important world issue. Also, UF has one of the few honeybee research labs in the country and it felt appropriate to pay tribute to the work that our university accomplishes,” said Suzanna Barna, a project manager and senior in civil engineering. “And our team fell in love with the honeybee, honeycomb and floral visual design theme it would create for this year’s canoe design.” 

The team won in 2019 and last year’s competition was cancelled just hours before the team was supposed to travel to the competition. The sting of last year’s cancellation makes this win even greater, according to Mauricio Medina, a project manager and recent civil engineering alum. 

“This year has been one large attempt at picking ourselves back up. I think we succeeded,” Medina added. “After our 2019 national championship, I vowed to win another one. After two years of hard work here we are. Back-to-back means that it’s not a fluke we set out to be the best and proved that we are the best.” 

In this year’s competition, Polligator nested in the top three in all the competition categories. No other team competing was placed in the top three more than once. They placed second in the technical proposal and technical presentation categories, and third in the enhanced focus areas competition.  

“We have an outstanding group of students whose dedication and perseverance are simply unsurpassed. They have once again not only performed in exemplary fashion at the highest level of competition but have also managed to pass that tradition along to each subsequent generation of students in the program in a way that is truly remarkable,” said Robert J. Thieke, Ph.D., department head for civil and coastal engineering and concrete canoe team faculty advisor. “Our project managers, or co-captains, Suzanna Barna and Mauricio Medina rose to meet every challenge of this difficult year and provided inspirational leadership throughout the year-long process.” 

The team has successfully foraged for top national placements for over half a decade. The team has won first place in 2015, 2019 and 2021, and placed second in 2017 and 2018.  

This comes on the heels of the UF Eckhoff Steel Bridge’s win, which makes it the second time in UF’s history that both teams have won their respective national competitions. The last time this happened was in 2015.  

“Now that UF Civil Engineering has once again claimed the Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe national titles in the same year, we can now lay claim to be the only civil program to have done this twice,” Dr. Thieke said.