50@50: More than 20 years of Walk on Water


To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. Below is a series of videos from the last decade of Walk on Water events.

In 1989, College of Architecture + the Arts Professor Jaime Canaves challenged students of his Materials & Methods of Construction class to complete an assignment that seemed a bit farfetched, perhaps even impossible: walk on water.

They thought he was joking at first, Canaves recalls. But he was serious, and his 30 students went about creating shoes that would allow them to walk across the 175-foot lake behind the Green Library.

Due to insurance and liability issues, the students could not test the shoes on the lake themselves – so it was Canaves walking on water for them that first year. For the next few years, Canaves kept the event alive by hosting it at a lake next to his home until the insurance issues were finally resolved. The event returned to FIU for good in 1993.

FI Walk on Water 1

A student attempts to get to the end of the lake during Walk on Water 2012.

Students work individually or in groups to build “shoes” to race against classmates with the goal of getting from one side of the lake behind the Green Library to the other in the quickest time possible.

In recent years the winning student or group received $500 in scholarships and an “A” in the class. This year, the award has been raised to $1,000.

Everyone else who successfully completes the assignment receives an “A” and a chance to drop their lowest grade.

In the 26 years since Canaves’ initial challenge, Walk on Water has become one of the university’s most cherished celebrations, showcasing the creativity and ingenuity of FIU’s architecture students before the local community.

“Walk on Water shows that learning can be exciting and it can be fun,” Canaves said last year at the event. “What I like the most is the challenge involved. It builds character. After you’ve walked on water, what can you be afraid of?”

Approximately 1,800 students have taken part in Walk on Water, helping them learn key concepts and principles in architecture and design.

“You get to create something, call it your own and see it work,” said Meissel Herrera, a member of the winning group from Walk on Water 2014. “Just making something that made it to the finish line is the best feeling.”

The event has attracted participants both young and old. In 1998, a 9-year-old girl walked in place of her mother to become the youngest person to walk across the lake. The oldest, at age 67, walked across 11 years later in the 2009 Walk on Water event.

In 2011, Alex Quinonez and his project partner, Esther Monterrey, set the record for fastest time across the lake. They shattered the old record by 20 seconds by reaching the end of the lake in one minute and three seconds.

A new group of students has been working on creating “shoes” they hope will get them across the lake at this year’s event, which will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 11:30 a.m. at its usual location behind the Green Library. The event is free and open to the public.