Dominick Casciano III
Major: Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Hometown: Nokesville, Virginia
Mason engineering student Dominick Casciano has been a member of the Volgenau School of Engineering concrete canoe team since its inception three years ago. Last year, he led the team that built a canoe named Perseverance and competed near the University of Virginia in the mid-Atlantic portion of this national collegiate engineering competition. This year, Virginia Military Institute in Lexington is hosting the April competition, and Casciano and his teammates are building a new canoe for it.
Why Concrete?: “They make ships out of steel,” he says. “Why not a concrete canoe?” Planning and implementation for the project comes down to the concrete mix the team decides on and the design of the canoe, which they mold using big sheets of foam. “You want the [concrete] mix to be light and strong.”
Team Players: In addition to coming up with a concrete recipe and a canoe design, Casciano says other team tasks involve working with suppliers to pull together the materials and raising funds. The team gets some support from the Volgenau School and its Civil Engineering Institute. They also receive donations.
Hands-on Research: This year, Casciano and team leader Justin Kurz are also getting support from the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research. Both have research projects with team faculty mentor Liza Durant.
Kurz is working with graphite nanomaterials as concrete reinforcement. “I am working with geopolymers, basically concrete without cement.”
Maiden Voyage: The first year the team competed was definitely a learning experience. “It was like trying to paddle a floating bathtub,” says Casciano, who paddled in the first heat in which the team came in last and backward. “The first boat we made was so ugly. It was too big, too tall, and too heavy. We got the sympathy cheers. We definitely weren’t a threat so everyone cheered us on.”
The Stats: Last year, the team fared better than it did the first year. Perseverance won a number of heats against other universities at the regionals, including first place in the men’s slalom/endurance race and first place in the co-ed sprint. 2015 is expected to be their best year yet.