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UW-Madison Hosts National Concrete Canoe Competition

Students with canoes by fountain

The opening display was held at the UW-Madison Engineering Mall. (large image)

On June 15, robust young civil engineers from 28 universities battled the clock and the mighty waters of Madison's scenic Lake Mendota armed with only canoes made of concrete. In the ninth annual National Concrete Canoe Competition, student members of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) competed to produce the fastest and best engineered paddlecraft made of at least 75 percent Portland cement.

Men's and women's pairs--spurred on by zealously vocal support teams--competed in both 200-meter sprint and 600-meter long-distance events on the waters behind UW-Madison's historic Old Red Gym. The races, however, only partially determined the winning team. Sixty percent of the teams' scores were earned in judged events, including an oral presentation, a display, a design paper and evaluations of the quality of construction and design of the canoe itself.

For the third time in four years, perennial concrete-canoe powerhouse University of Alabama at Huntsville triumphed over the competition -- and the laws of physics -- in this think or sink competition, which is sponsored by the ASCE and Master Builders, Inc. The team won $5,000 in scholarship money donated by Master Builders.


University Finish Award
University of Alabama-Huntsville First Place $5,000 Scholarship Award
Michigan State University Second Place $2,500 Scholarship Award
University of California-Berkeley Third place $1,500 Scholarship Award
South Dakota Tech. Fourth Place Commemorative Plaque
Clemson Fifth Place Commemorative Plaque

To get to the national championship held at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, teams first had to win regional competitions in April and May. UW-Madison, which as the host school earned an automatic berth, and placed 12th after winning its regional last year. Other teams included California State at Sacramento, Cooper Union, Louisiana State University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Minnesota, the University of Hawaii, the University of Virginia, University Laval, Washington State University. Western Kentucky University, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Maryland, Michigan Tech, U.S. Military Academy, the University New Orleans, the University of Kansas, University of California at Los Angeles, Bucknell University and University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign.

King Kong Crete

The UW-Madison team prepares for the preliminary sprints with their canoe 'King Kong Crete' behind the Old Red Gym. (large image)

Disco canoe

The University of California- Sacramento celebrated its mauve "Concrete canoe de Ville" with a 70's disco theme. (large image)

The finals competition started Thursday June 13 on UW-Madison's engineering mall with an open-air presentation of the slick watercraft and their accompanying displays. Most of the canoes were decorated to represent imaginative themes--from Louisiana State University's tiger-striped "tiger power" to the Cooper Union's mustard yellow "Cab," complete with checkered stripe and rate patch to the simulated crumbled plaster of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's own "King Kong Crete." Many were also mounted on theme-related stands, such as the mock-archeological dig site for Michigan State University's "C-Rex" and the muscular warrior of the University of Hawaii's "Awiwi."

Academic presentations were held throughout the day on Friday, June 14. The next morning saw the grueling "swamp tests," in which the canoes must pop-up and float after being submerged "Making concrete float is an unusual challenge that offers civil engineering students valuable hands-on lessons crucial to maintaining America's aging infrastructure. The fact that these canoes float, demonstrates that our infrastructure is in good hands for years to come," said ASCE President Charles A. Parthum.

Preliminary races were held later Saturday morning with the finals held before an enthusiastic crowd in the afternoon.