In the 1960s, a group of civil engineering students had what everyone else thought was a crazy idea. They would take a building material nearly everyone was familiar with, concrete, and use it in an extraordinary way: they would design, build and race a canoe made of concrete. Despite their success, those students never would have believed that a nationally recognized competition would evolve from their experiment — and they certainly never thought that in 2007 the national competition would be celebrating its 20th annual event. While the shape, size and speed of the canoes have changed throughout the years, the innovative spirit and creativity of the competitors remains the same.
Continuing its tradition of concrete dominance for the fifth year in a row, the University of Wisconsin — Madison captured the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering” at the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 20th Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition in Seattle.
Countless calculations and measurements, hundreds of hours spent constructing the canoe and aching muscles from constant paddling practice were just a few of the challenges the Badgers had to overcome before they traveled to the University of Washington for the annual engineering challenge. However, in the end, their technical skills, ingenuity and dedication propelled them to victory in their canoe, the Descendant.
Madison’s 19.979-ft.-long, 179-lb., natural gray canoe led the field of 22 teams from the country’s top engineering schools, and as the winner of the 2007 National Concrete Canoe Competition, the team also will be invited to participate in the 30th Annual Dutch Concrete Canoe Challenge in the Netherlands in September.
“Over the past two decades the students that have participated in the National Concrete Canoe Competition have represented the best and the brightest of the engineering profession, and this year’s class is a continuation of that tradition,” said ASCE President Bill Marcuson. “The creativity, innovation and teamwork these students have displayed over the past three days assure me that no matter what challenges come their way — energy, transportation, global water supply — they will be prepared for success.”
The team’s closest competitors were teams from the University of Florida and the University of Nevada, Reno. The University of Florida paddled into second place with the blue, orange and grey, 135-lb., 19.105-ft.-long Gladigator; and the University of Nevada, Reno finished a close third with the white and blue, 177-lb., 19.11-ft.-long Cerulean.
For their top finishes, the University of Wisconsin — Madison, University of Florida and University of Nevada, Reno earned $5,000, $2,500 and $1,500 in scholarship money, respectively.
The 2007 ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition teams in order of final rank are: 1) University of Wisconsin — Madison; 2) University of Florida; 3) University of Nevada, Reno; 4) Western Kentucky University; 5) California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; 6) New Mexico State University; 7) University of Oklahoma; 8) California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; 9) University of Wisconsin — Platteville; 10) Michigan Technological University; 11) University of Washington; 12) Ohio Northern University; 13) University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; 14) Ecole de technologie superieure; 15) Washington State University; 16) University of Maine; 17) North Carolina State University; 18) University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; 18) Mississippi State University; 18) University of Houston; 18) Fairmont State University; 18) City College of New York.
The races, both endurance and sprint combined, counted for only 25 percent of the teams’ overall score. The remaining 75 percent was based equally on: a technical design paper that highlighted the planning, development, testing and construction of the team’s canoe; a formal oral presentation, in which the team had to detail their canoe’s design, construction, racing ability and other innovative features, as well as defend their choices to the judges during a question and answer session; and the end product — the final racing canoe and project display, which were scored on aesthetics and visual presentation.
The three-day event, organized by ASCE and hosted by the University of Washington, was made possible by the support of founding sponsor BASF Construction Chemicals, as well as the American Concrete Institute (ACI), Baker Construction Inc., Bentley Systems Incorporated, Holcim Inc., Norchem, ICS Penetron, Pennoni Associates Inc., Propex Concrete Systems and U.S. Silica Company.
For more information, visit www.asce.org/concretecanoe.