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Students Navigating way to National Concrete Canoe Competition

UW-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering students got a taste of a battle to come when they competed in the Great Lakes Regional Concrete Canoe Competition April 27 at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The host school won the seven-team event while the Badger paddlers placed second, but the squads will meet again June 13-15 when UW-Madison hosts the National Concrete Canoe Competition. (Host schools receive an automatic invitation to the national event.)

UW-Madison students have traditionally fared well in concrete canoe competitions, which are conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers and sponsored by Master Builders, Inc. Last year, the Madison team advanced to the national event in Washington, D.C. About a third of this year's 35 team members have competed in previous concrete canoe contests.

Concrete canoes on water

Enthusiasm is always at high tide when students race concrete canoes. (large image)

Frequently labeled "the America's Cup of Civil Engineering," the Concrete Canoe Competition is a showcase of students applying classroom knowledge to a practical application. Participants are judged on oral and written presentations detailing each canoe's design; construction and materials; a "swamp test" in which submerged canoes must pop up and float; and distance and sprint races on the lake.

UW-Madison senior John Findlay estimated his team put in more than 1,000 hours designing and constructing its craft, under the guidance of Associate Professor Jeffrey S. Russell. "The most labor-intensive portion was constructing the mold," he said. Additionally, students who wanted to compete in the races were encouraged to start working out early to build strength and endurance. Madison-area canoe enthusiasts helped the students with their paddling techniques.

For further information, check out the College of Engineering's National Concrete Canoe Competition website.