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  5. UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team in nation's top-two

UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team in nation's top-two

UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team

The UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team earned second place at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, June 16-18, at the University of Evansville, Indiana. Photo Courtesy ASCE. 

Displaying a vessel named Element, the UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team placed second overall in the National Concrete Canoe Competition, held June 16 through 18 at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

For the second year in a row, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo earned the national title.

Teams qualify for the competition by placing first in one of 18 conference competitions held throughout the country in spring. Twenty-four teams earned spots in the national competition.

While teams paddled head to head in five on-water races, they also were judged on their oral presentation, design paper and on the canoe itself. UW-Madison took fourth place for its oral presentation, third place for its design paper, and second place for its final product, the canoe.

On race day, thunderstorms delayed events for five hours. However, despite the wait, the UW-Madison team made a strong showing, says team project manager Michael Schneider, a civil and environmental engineering undergraduate. "The paddlers’ commitment to practicing during the entirety of the year—even when there was still snow on the ground in February—paid off, as the team was able to compete against the top paddlers and lightest canoes in the nation."

The UW-Madison women paddlers placed third in the sprints and fourth in the slalom/endurance race, while the men took fifth in the sprints and seventh in the slalom/endurance race. The team earned fourth place in the co-ed sprints. 

UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team

This year, the team used dragons to represent various elements—fire, water, wind and earth—for which civil engineers design. Photo courtesy ASCE.

At 20 feet long and 191 pounds, Element was among the lighter entries in the national competition. Heaviest was the Louisiana Tech University canoe, which weighed 405 pounds; a canoe from the Université Laval of Québec City weighed just 100 pounds, while the University of Nevada at Reno entered a 146-pound boat and several others hovered around the 200-pound mark.

UW-Madison team members spent more than 3,600 hours preparing for the competition, says Schneider. "Veteran members and new members alike took time from their busy schedules in order to produce an amazing final product," he says.

Visually, the canoe is stunning. This year, the team used dragons to represent various elements for which civil engineers design. "On our canoe, we depicted fire, water and wind dragons, with an earth dragon serving as stands and holding the canoe," says Schneider. "Due to the aesthetics of the canoe itself, the team wanted to pick a name that would focus on the different types of dragons that we used, so we chose Element."

He says the national competition was an excellent way to close out the team's year. Now, members already are looking to 2012: "I am excited to see current members already starting to look ahead to next year and brainstorming ways to improve on our second-place finish," says Schneider. 

Renee Meiller