Walk on Water: The Race To $2,000 at FIU’s Green Lake 

Photo panels from various years of the walk on water event | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Hennessy Sepulveda | Staff Writer

At FIU, architecture students innovate every year to do something once thought impossible: walking on water.

This year’s annual Walk on Water event will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at the East Side of FIU’s Modesto Campus Green Lake, where architecture students will compete in teams to make it to the other side of the lake first for a $1,000 prize. 

There is also an additional $1,000 prize on the table for any team that beats the previous record crossing time of 44.71 seconds.

The real challenge for the competitors is they must walk across.

Students are to team up in groups of two to four or work solo to engineer foot gear that can float and allow competitors to maneuver across the lake as they race against opposing groups. 

If teams exceed more than two members, all those on the team must participate in the race, while groups of two may send just one of the members across.

Foot gear for crossing the lake constructed by FIU Architecture Students | Alexander Luzula, PantherNOW

Before becoming the favorite fall tradition of the School of Architecture for over 30 years, the concept of Walk on Water started as an extra credit assignment that was offered by Professor Jamie Canaves for the class Materials and methods of construction back in 1989.

The assignment was initially an ode to a fun assignment Canaves had done at the University of Florida, which was to construct a boat out of cardboard to use in water. 

After offering the assignment once before at a previous university, he decided his students deserved a fresh spin on it.

“I felt I was simply repeating the same thing I was taught, and I thought that my students were more special and more creative than that,” recalled Canaves.

Commemorative event T-shirt | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

In the years that followed, Canaves continued to bring back the assignment until 1997 when it was made an official event for the 25th anniversary of FIU’s founding. 

Later, it was opened to students from different schools around the state including Miami-Dade College, Palm Beach College and the University of Florida. 

The event’s reach and media attention has even grown enough to attract students from abroad, including the University of Monterrey in Mexico.

FIU student and Walk on Water contestant Lorena Gonzalez shared the process of constructing her foot gear with her partner that they hope will carry her to victory.

“We are given a piece of Styrofoam to create these shoes to get across the lake and we’re given minimal direction, it’s more trial and error,” said Gonzalez.

“It’s also a personalized process,” she continued as she explained that teams have to consider both the materials they use and the dimensions of the racer when in the construction process.

Check in for the event will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the East side of the Green Lake where the race will begin at 11:55 a.m. with popular event sponsor, The Salty Donut set up in the Paul L. Cejas Architecture Building (PCA) Courtyard with specialty donuts available to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

(Check out a video of a participant practicing for the event below!)

Alexander Luzula and Kaysea Suzana contributed to this report.

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