In what sounds like a cruel joke, civil engineering students like Grant Johnson had to make a canoe out of concrete.
"We actually use a structural mix that is less dense than water," Johnson said. "So, it can float."
Johnson is from the University of Wisconsin. His team of 25 students joined a total of 20 schools at the Colorado School of Mines this weekend for the 30th Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition. The contest moves to different locations every year coordinated by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
"What they learn, they get to use practical application and innovation to figure out a way to make the concrete float," Kristina Swallow, president-elect of ASCE, said.
The process takes all year to research, develop, and build.
"It's a way to get civil engineering students thinking. It's critical thinking," Johnson said.
More than 200 teams competed across the globe including a team from China and several from Canada.
"First of all, we come from Montreal, so it took three days to come here," Kevin Blanchard said.
Blanchard attends a school called ETS Montreal which won the competition last year.
"We're trying to accomplish the same thing this year," Blanchard said.
The Colorado School of Mines pulled its team of competition to focus on hosting the event, according to Swallow. She says the interaction between students is a major part of this event.
"The students go to each other and they learn from each other," Swallow said.
Johnson says he jots down ideas for next year.
"You come to an event like this and you see all the different approaches that other teams take and you see there's a million different ways to reach the same end goal," Johnson said.
But, these concrete canoes not only have to float, the have to go fast.
"We just want to have a nice competition and try to win," Blanchard said.
The canoe races are Monday where their science and their muscles will be put to the test.
"Yeah," Johnson said. "We think we have a good shot."