CARBONDALE — Campus Lake was the spot of a different kind of canoe race on Saturday morning at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

In this race, all of the canoes are made of concrete.

Alexis Bower, president of the SIUC Chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers, said the event is part of a three-day competition for engineering students called the 2018 Mid-Continent Students Conference.

The competition includes students from Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas. It tests structural and geophysical engineering skills.

The first question people have when they hear about the contest is simple: How does a concrete canoe float?

“They have foam in the noses and the concrete has air bubbles that help it float,” Bower said.

To make concrete canoes, students must follow the specific rules for the year. They create different batches of concrete and test them to find a specific recipe to follow for their canoes. They design and fabricate the canoe.

SIUC student Sarah Hodges, of Bolingbrook, said the team’s canoe was named “Prominence.”

“It is based off the eclipse that recently happened,” Hodges said.

A prominence is an eruption of a flame-like tongue of relatively cool, high-density gas from the solar chromosphere into the corona. It can be seen during an eclipse or by using special equipment.

“Really, we have been working on it since August,” Jessica Wignes said.

This year, the team reworked their design to make the canoe narrower to make it faster. Wignes said the design made the canoe a little harder to maneuver.

The canoe is blue, fading to black in the center, mimicking an eclipse.

“It was really fund to be able to build,” Hodges said.

Jessica Wignes and Jessica Kurpius “manned” the Prominence for the women’s endurance race, finishing in 8 minutes, and 11 seconds.

“I think we are going to end up in first place, so I’m pretty excited,” Jesssica Wignes said.

Jacob Schmidt, of Pinckneyville, is a junior at SIUC and part of the concrete canoe team.

“Our committee planned the conference, so it’s really nice to see everything perfect for the competition,” Schmidt said.

Other competitions included building steel bridges and a Geo Wall, which took place on Friday. Bower is on the steel bridge team.

“Our team fabricated the steel bridge in the shop using lathes and drill press,” Bower said. “We use shop equipment that we otherwise wouldn’t use until we were on the job.”

The SIUC team finished their bridge in 3 minutes, 41 seconds, before penalties.

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