Every summer, university
students all over the country are eager to escape the pressures
of school. But for some civil engineering students, the start
of summer means something else: the National Concrete Canoe
Competition, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers
and Master Builders Inc.
State University raced one half of its split canoe, which
was damaged by shipping.
This year, teams from 24 schools towed, tugged, and rowed
their way to Philadelphia for the competition hosted by Drexel
University. The main goal of this event is to provide aspiring
civil engineers with hands-on experience and leadership skills
by working with concrete mix designs.
Trekking a canoe across the country
is not an easy task, as the Louisiana State University team
learned the hard way. Between shipping and racing the canoe,
"the back half became unrepairable, so we cut off the
back half and raced one half," team member Kyle Murrell
says. LSU continued to compete through the two-man sprint
anyway. "It was going pretty well until we took on too
much water," he adds. The boat ended up sinking a quarter
of the way through the race. "But it made the crowd happy,"
of Wisconsin-Madison took first place in this year's competition.
Bringing home top honors this year
was the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Finishing a strong
second was the sole Canadian team, Université Laval,
and in third place was the University of California at Berkeley.
Based on the outcome of previous years, Clemson University
was expected to place well, but its team ended up in fourth
Competition participants faced
some new challenges. "This is the first year that [competitors]
are required to have regular old sand in their canoes, and
fly ash," Ray Cook, another NCCC committee member says.
The use of these materials makes canoes much heavier than
years past. The average weight of this years canoe is
160 lb, about 50 lb heavier than last years model. Competition
organizers decided on the restriction of materials because
participants in recent years had begun to use materials that
either were not concrete or were not used for building purposes.
Wisconsin's canoe capsized in its final race, the team
swam to the finish line.
The race itself only comprised
30% of the final score. An accompanying design paper was worth
another 30% and an oral presentation 25%. The final product
provided the remaining 15% of the score. In the past, the
academics only factored into 20% of the overall score. Also
banned this year was canoe painting. All coloring had to come
from staining, so that competition judges did not have to
take into account the affect of paint, which can act as a
water sealant and can make the canoe more buoyant.
On race day, each squad participated
in an array of qualifying races. Early in the morning, teams
competed in the distance race and sprint race. In each race,
the boat was paddled by either two male or two female team
members, depending on the race. These were followed by the
four-person co-ed sprint. The teams with the ten best times
then competed in the finals later that afternoon.
place University of California at Berkeley cheers on its
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
named their canoe "Chequamegon." The 22-foot beauty
weighed in at 145 lb. In years past, the Badgers used rounder,
slower designs. But this year, the canoe was modeled to be
faster and more agile, referencing a local Native American
tribes canoe design. Ironically, the name of the winning
teams canoe is Ojibwa for "place of shallow water."
Even though it capsized in its final race, the team swam the
boat across the finish line, and beat out the 23 other schools
in the overall competition.
On the other hand, the canoe entry
from the University of Maryland, which was participating for
the first time in seven years, managed to stay afloat even
though it was one of the competition's heaviestat 230
lband held the school's entire ten-person squad.
materials restrictions changed the design and weight of
After two demanding days of business
competitions and swamp tests, everybody was looking forward
to smooth sailing on race day. That all changed in the 24
hours before the competition. Torrential downpours that had
been plaguing the Northeast since April got the best of the
docks and spectator stands at the original race site on the
"You didnt have to look
too far to see that it wasnt exactly safe," says
Joe Syrnick, engineer with the city of Philadelphia and an
ASCE member. "Were engineers; were supposed
to be problem solvers." The race venue was then changed
to a small lake in the city's FDR Park. Problem solved.
First Place: University
of Wisconsin-Madison, "Chequamegon"
Second Place: Universite
Third Place: University
of California at Berkeley, "Bearkelium"
Fourth Place: Clemson
University, "Main Course"
Fifth Place: University
of Oklahoma, "Sooner or Later"