University of Wisconsin-Madison's Arick Groth,
David Chmielewski, Amy Roth, Linda Vanevenhoven surge
forward in the
Every year hundreds
of civil engineering students dedicate months of hard work
and solid determination to make the seemingly impossible a
realitydesign and construct a racing caliber canoe from
concrete. This year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison captured
its second consecutive national victory at the 17th annual
National Concrete Canoe Competition, which was held June 18-20
in Washington, D.C
The competition, sponsored by the
American Society of Civil Engineers and Master Builders, Inc.,
gives civil engineering students the opportunity to apply
practical engineering principles they have learned and to
gain management skills with team cooperation.
Laval earns second place.
"There are a multiple number
of factors for participating," says Rhett Dotson of Texas
A&M University. In addition to the experience gained from
a leadership position and the excitement of competing, "you
make some of your best friends."
The University of Wisconsin-Madison,
2003's reigning champion, beat 21 other teams participating
in this year's competition, which the Catholic University
of America hosted. Universite Laval an invited guest from
Canada, placed second, and University of Alabama-Huntsville
received third in the competition. Clemson University, Clemson,
S.C., and Milwaukee School of Engineering placed fourth and
Solid University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Alabama-Huntsville
Away Clemson University
Milwaukee Milwaukee School of Engineering
The competition is 75% academics-based.
Judges base scores on a design paper, an oral presentation,
the final product's aesthetics and structure quality and races.
Each of the four parts is equal in weight.
of Alabama-Huntsville finished third in the overall competition.
Although NCCC rules restrict the
use of paint (except for the letters used for the school and
canoe name), stains and cement dyes gave canoes a variety
of lively colors including green, blue and orange. Even more
vivid are the names of the canoes. Drexel University morphed
MTV's television show Pimp My Ride into "pimp my canoe"
and named its floating ride Ghetto Fabulous, says Dave Gryger,
a freshman team member. Gilligan's Island and the S.S. Minnow
inspired Milwaukee School of Engineering's island theme and
its canoe S.S. Milwaukee, says team member Adam Boucher. The
University of Wisconsin-Madison found inspiration in its team's
strength and chose Rock Solid for its canoe, which measured
21' 8" and weighed in at 180 lbs. "Our canoe's name
is mainly based on the team and the development of the mix
design," says Preston Tokheim, co-captain of the team.
"This year we had a lot more dedication as far as a team.
We knew our mix design was rock-solid."
When designing a concrete mix,
the team must consider the balance of the watercraft's speed,
maneuverability and structural quality. NCCC rule changes
presented even more challenges for this year's teams. Regulations
restricted the water to cementitious materials ratio to a
maximum of 0.5. "The biggest obstacle was to get the
flexibility that we wanted while meeting the requirements,"
says Sarah Yeldell, team captain of the University of Alabama-Huntsville
University puts its canoe through the swamp test. Canoes
must be able to float when filled with water to be eligible
NCCC also required the addition
of sand in significant proportions to the cement mix, which
makes a heavier design mix. While the University of Minnesota's
L'Etoile du Nord weighed only 105 lbs., Montana State University's
Golden Stonefly tipped the scales at 350 lbs. This year's
average canoe weighed 190 lbs., following a trend for heavier
boats in the past couple of years. In 2003, the average canoe
weighed 167 lbs., about 50 lbs. heavier than the average in
Some teams had additional challenges
regarding the construction of their canoe. Drexel University's
team had funding problems and time constraints, says team
member Gryger. Focusing on the goal was the hardest part,
and sanding required an enormous amount of patience, says
Wisconsin-Madison's Tokheim. Sanding Clemson's Cast Away required
417 hours, says team member Matt Goodner.
State Polytechnic University-Pomona's canoe Kellogg's
Greatest completely fills with water as the team reaches
The races, held at Lake Fairfax
in Reston, Va., consisted of 5 races: women's slalom/endurance,
men's slalom/endurance, women's sprint, men's sprint, and
a co-ed sprint. Some paddlers trained during the year about
once a week, but others trained more intensely. Paddlers did
weight training and practiced three to five days a week, but
as competition time came closer, they trained seven days a
week, says Shannon Pierce, co-captain of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison team. The team's 3,600 total hours of rock-solid
work and determination paid off.
"It's a great feeling knowing
that you can put your mind to something so unique that every
time you mention that you built a concrete canoe, you have
to give an explanation," says Tokheim.
(All photos courtesy of ASCE)