It was a clean sweep: Over the weekend NJIT students won the regional steel bridge contest as well as the concrete canoe contest. This marks the second year in a row that NJIT has won both contests.The first win came last Saturday, when NJIT won the Regional Steel-Bridge competition held at NYU-Polytechnic’s campus in Brooklyn. NJIT took first place overall and also won first in the categories of economy, display, stiffness, efficiency and oral presentation.
Teams must assemble their bridges under deadline pressure before the vigilant eyes of judges: NJIT assembled its bridge in 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Eleven schools competed with NJIT topping teams from Columbia, Rutgers, NYU-Polytechnic, Manhattan College, City College of New York, the College of New Jersey and Rowan. The rules were rigorous and five teams were disqualified: their bridges did not meet specifications. NJIT never faltered.
Tom Woloszyn, of Clifton, a steel bridge co-captain, said the team has been the highlight of his academic years at NJIT. “All of us on the team feel that this has been the most rewarding experience of our lives,” said Woloszyn, a senior majoring in civil engineering. “We learned to work as a team and we’ve become friends. We got to know our professors better and we worked closely with our company sponsors. Some of our past team members have gotten jobs working for our sponsors and other companies and I hope to do the same after I graduate.”
It’s the 8th year in a row that NJIT has won the metropolitan regional competition, organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). By taking regionals, the NJIT team of 25 civil engineering students, nabbed an invitation to the National Steel Bridge Competition. It will be held later this month at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Stan Agradnov, of Rockaway, is the other co-captain. Team members are Bryan Lopez, Elizabeth; Bill Zimmerman, Hewitt; Kristina Espineli, Rockaway; Edwin Puma, Guttenberg; Rita Exposito, West New York; Carmelo Bruzzesi, Palisades Park; Adam Torbus, Mateusz Tchorz and Ashish Patel, Wallington; Besim Tonuzi, Woodcliff Lake; Raj Das, Old Bridge; Suryakant Sanghani, Secaucus; Shaishav Rana, Passaic; Kevin Alvernaz and Ron Wade, Newark; Dan Snyder, Fords; Andrew Flory, Brick.
The second win came on Sunday when, under a hot sun, NJIT’s Concrete Canoe Team won first place in the ASCE regional contest held at Cook’s Pond, in Denville. They, too, won a spot in nationals. In June they’ll travel to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to compete against regional winners.
Beginning in August, the team designed, fabricated and built a 250-pound canoe. They used a mix of special mix concrete dictated by ASCE specifications. The trick was to build a boat that not only met specs and could stay afloat but was also fast. Each team had to race its canoe in five heats: NJIT took second place overall. They also took first in the men’s sprint, second in the men’s slalom, where they had to negotiate five buoys, and second in the women’s slalom. The women also took third in the sprint. The races accounted for 25 percent of the judging. The other three categories were a research paper outlining their design of the canoe, a presentation about their design, and a display of the canoe’s mold. The races amounted to 25 points, with the three other categories accounting for 75 points.
The NJIT canoe team won first for its presentation and second for its display. Altogether that made for an overall first place win. Ten teams competed in the canoe contest, with NJIT topping teams from Stevens, Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, Farleigh Dickinson and NYU-Polytechnic.
“Our team worked to assure that our boat was fast and maneuverable in the water and that it was well engineered,” said Eric Miranda, of Clark, a co-captain of the team. “This is the day we’ve working toward, and waiting for; and to come out with a win is pure joy.”
Whereas last year’s canoe was wide and boxy, emphasizing stability, this year’s team designed a semi-round bottom that gave the canoe speed without sacrificing stability. The canoe was also longer and sleeker. But what gave NJIT the edge was its dedication: The team couldn’t practice rowing with the concrete canoe; there’s always a risk it would crack. So they designed a prototype canoe in fiber-glass, a light boat that was easy to transport and wouldn’t crack. And for two months, on weekend days, the students strapped that canoe to a car and drove to Cook’s pond, where they practiced rowing. They learned to negotiate turns, how to steady the canoe in the wind, and how to sprint. They became stronger rowers and they grew into something more than a team.
“We became like one big family,” said freshman Gabrielle Da Silva, of Cranford, who rowed for the women’s team and in the co-ed race. “When I was out there rowing, my arms burned and my throat was dry. But I thought of all the hard work our team put into this and I powered up.”
The team of 30 students is made up of lower and upper classmen, with upperclassmen mentoring the younger students, added Da Silva. That’s what gives the team continuity and success. “Some seniors who mentored me are graduating,” she said. “We younger students are already thinking about next year’s canoe, which will be stronger and lighter and faster.”
John Schuring is a professor of civil engineering at NJIT who for decades has winningly advised both the steel bridge and the concrete canoe teams. The teams have been successful because the students join out of their own volition, says Schuring. They don’t receive academic credits for joining the teams. They join because they want to -- and that makes all the difference.
“Civil engineering majors love hands-on projects,” he says. “They put in endless hours of work because they love to design and build. That’s one of the keys to their success.”
Canoe co-captain is John Lynch, Wantage. Team members are Matthew Johnsen, Oceanport; Alex Bostwick, West Long Branch; Joe McShane, Cedar Grove; Gabrielle DaSilva, Cranford; Drew Margiotta, Colts Neck; Ralph Goduco and Kristina Espineli, Rockaway; Silvia Santos, Elizabeth; Tim Straut, Bayville; Chris Pulaski, Forked River; Elsa Goncalves, Springfield;, Bryan Lopez, Elizabeth; Ron Wade, Newark; Anthony DeZenzo, Parsippany; Rocco Cerami, Bloomfield and Besim Tonuzi, Woodcliff Lake.