Montana State University

The Golden Stonefly splashes toward national competition

April 8, 2004 -- by Jean Arthur, MSU News Service

MSU’s College of Engineering students paddled their concrete canoe to win the Pacific Northwest Regional American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual competition. At race day are (left to right) William Peete, Bruce Lieffring, Chris Crawford, Jayme Berard, Ray Gamradt, Nichole Anderson, Sydney Arthur, Steve Hebnes, Nicole Arrington. (Photo courtesy of Nichole Anderson.)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Bozeman - If only Meriwether Lewis had Montana State University's team of civil engineers to build his experimental canoe, it wouldn't have sunk somewhere along the Missouri River two centuries ago. This year's Concrete Canoe Team of 10 MSU student members of the American Society of Civil Engineers not only floated their 350-pound craft, they won the Pacific Northwest Regional Concrete Canoe Competition against teams from nine other colleges and universities.

Their canoe, the Golden Stonefly, had to successfully float while two or four students at a time raced 100-meter sprints and 600-meter endurance races. During the annual competition April 1-3 in Klamath Falls, Ore., the MSU team took first place overall and first in oral presentation and design report. They placed third in aesthetics, third in men's sprint and third in coed sprint.

"The canoe is heavy so it's hard to turn sharply," said team captain Nichole Anderson, a junior from Bozeman. "The canoe has to pass a swamp test where it is submerged and is required to float. Since our boat has a density heavier than water, it required foam flotation devices."

Besides Anderson, the MSU team includes junior Steven Hebnes of Anchorage, senior Jayme Berard of Missoula, junior Raymond Gamradt of Missoula, junior Nicole Arrington of Helena, junior Sydney Arthur of Bozeman, junior RaeAnne Huber of Sioux Falls, S.D., freshman William Peete of Greensboro, N.C., senior Chris Crawford of Visalia, Calif., and senior Bruce Lieffring of Bozeman.

The team designed the canoe in the fall and built it this spring, taking an estimated 900 hours to design, test and construct - extracurricular time. The students do not receive college credit for their efforts. The stained finish resembles wood with hand-painted MSU lettering and stonefly decals.

"Student engineering design competitions, like the concrete canoe, are invaluable learning experiences for those students who participate," said Brett Gunnink, head of civil engineering. "These experiences allow students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to interesting experiments. Students further develop their critical thinking and analytical skills and refine their team building and communication skills."

The MSU team's successful design included an original transverse and longitudinal rib system for strength and stability. They learned from years past when other canoes broke apart and sunk.

"Some students from other teams got wet," Anderson said, noting that the team practiced in the Bozeman Swim Center before ice melted from lakes. "The Anchorage team sunk their boat with two people in it due to a large crack. Another team of girls tipped over, and one boat had to forfeit because they couldn't fit four people in the boat without sinking."

Before nationals, Golden Stonefly will need some patching, staining and resealing of the 21-foot long, 2.8-foot wide, and 0.75-inch thick hull, which was chipped during travel. The students intend to perfect their paddling techniques on the Missouri River - the same waters which sank the experimental Lewis and Clark craft.

And the engineering students will work on their flyfishing casts too.

"The team enjoys flyfishing," Anderson said. "The name Golden Stonefly came about because it contains the school colors and is an actual Montana fishing fly." She added that the oral presentation was a mock sales pitch for the drift boat of the future.

Golden Stonefly and the team will compete at a national competition June 17-20 in Washington, D.C. This is the first year an MSU team will compete on the national level in the canoe competition.

Contact Nichole Anderson 586-6862 or 994-2111