Overall length of boat:
19 ft 6 in.
Net weight of canoe:
Graphite Pre-Impregnated Tape
2nd at Regional
U. of Florida
P: Leslie Roberts
VP: Joey Skinner
S: Chloe Roberson
T: Elizabeth Brown
Dr. John Gilbert
Dr. Michelle Crull
Mr. Tim Barnett
Mr. Jeff Lindner
Our third attempt to win nationals was blocked at the regional level when we were penalized for allegedly violating a rule involving flexural stiffness.
Although we won all of the regional races and filed an 80 page protest, we were not allowed to compete nationally.
The 19'6" boat weighed only 68 lbs. Our 61 lb/ft3 concrete had a strength of 2,400
Our first attempt to win
nationals for a third time relied on the "Enterprise II."
We designed special
tools for producing graphite strips and wrapped the strips around
plastic cords. The high-strength members enabled us to produce a 7
pound frame. Leslie Roberts (Livingston), shown below holding up
the frame, never dreamed how much weight she would later carry in
supporting the Chapter through its darkest hour.
Concrete was placed
around the frame using rolling pins. With a canoe weighing only 68
lbs, and a very strong paddling team, we fully envisioned winning our
third national title. But that was not to be.
Alumni Notes: By now, our
domination of the Southeast had become unnerving for our competitors in
the region. We had won the overall Southeast Regional title,
given for competing in ten events, five times; and,
had locked our sister schools out of the national concrete canoe competition
for six out of seven years running. They had had enough, and we were forced to
contend with protests from seven schools on the first day of the
three-day competition. Little did they know that we had already been accused, by the concrete canoe judges, of allegedly violating a
rule. We were in real trouble and facing disqualification from the event.
While constructing our canoe, we had used a graphite tape that was
pre-impregnated with epoxy. The tape was wrapped around polypropylene
cords and the cords were used to construct a unibody frame.
We cured the epoxy and the frame in a large over at NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center.
The rule in question stated, "Use
of polymer materials that add out of plane strength or stiffness to the
reinforcement is not allowed. This specifically applies to the use
of pre-impregnated and cured tapes and fiber mats. It is the
intent of the competition that the concrete be a primary component in
the strength composite. Use of graphite tapes and fiber mats are
allowed providing that the bonding or managing agent does not provide
out of plane stiffness or strength to the unimpregnated or uncured
What the judges meant to say was that pre-impregnated tapes were not
allowed but they made the rule so wordy that we interpreted it differently.
Our contention was that the antecedent of
the third sentence was the second sentence. Thus, we interpreted this
portion of the rule to mean, "when pre-impregnated and cured tapes
are used to reinforce the canoe, the concrete must lend significant
strength to the composite section." When the sentences are
read sequentially, the rule did not say that pre-impregnated graphite
tapes were illegal. In fact, the fourth sentence states that
"graphite tapes were allowed..."
All we knew was that our material was
referred to by the manufacturer and by us as graphite tape. To our
knowledge, there did not exist a product called graphite tape that was not impregnated with a resin. Therefore, the graphite tape
referred to in the rule had to apply to the material utilized in our
1995 concrete canoe.
As such, Rule II-B.4 stated that graphite
tape was allowed providing that it met certain criteria. We
argued that we met the criteria and in an 80 page protest filed
following the Regional competition showed that:
The change in material properties which occurs in the polymeric
managing agent during the heating cycle, coupled with the
dimensional changes produced by vacuum bagging the reinforcement,
significantly decrease both the out of plane stiffness
and the strength of the reinforcement.
The concrete plays a significant role in resisting the
compressive stresses produced when bending the graphite reinforced
concrete composite section. Thus, the concrete is a primary
component in the strength composite.
The addition of the managing agent decreases both
the out of plane stiffness and the strength of the graphite
Since these were the only conditions imposed by the rule in question,
we insisted that the rule had not been violated.
Consideration of our protest dragged on and on. Finally, Dr.
Gilbert sent an affidavit to ASCE National Headquarters regarding the
position paper submitted by the UAH ASCE Student Chapter on May 8,
1995. In this communication, Dr. Gilbert verified the test
procedure used by the Chapter, concurred with the
section analysis performed by us, and verified the information submitted
regarding the addition of resin to the graphite fibers. By then,
other composite experts were supporting our view and things were getting
The response to Dr. Gilbert's communication was immediate. ASCE
Headquarters asked him to equate the judges' ruling made during the Regional competition
to that of an umpire's decision made during a major sporting event.
Right or wrong, the decision would stand.
Gilbert was then asked to curtail our protest but he explained that it was not his decision as our faculty advisor to
do. He agreed to discuss the issue with the membership, and when he presented the viewpoint to the
Chapter, they voted to end the controversy.
was later received that we would not be invited to compete at nationals. To
their credit, Dr. Gilbert and our chapter president, Leslie Roberts (Livingston), raised the
money to take the team to
observe the competition in Washington, D.C. The University
of Florida did an excellent job in representing the Southeast that year,
and when the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology received their
first place trophy, the worst era in our Chapter's history finally
On the bright side, we had won our sixth overall Regional
title. In a letter written to Dr. Frank Franz, president of UAH,
Dr. Gilbert noted that,
"Even though this ordeal was tedious, it was the most practical
and enlightening experience ever provided to any student group working
under my direction. During the
Regional competition, the students were required to defend a position which on
the outset seemed clear. They struggled to defend their position
on the spot and worked diligently to convince a skeptical panel of
judges that their efforts were technologically sound. The
subsequent point deduction resulted in a deficit that the students knew
could not be overcome. Instead of simply giving up, their response
was to work together as a team to win all of the races. They acted
professionally during their deliberations with the judges and presented
their case in a clear and concise manner.
Our students reluctantly accepted the
judges' decision but applauded Florida as they accepted their trophy at
the awards banquet held following the Regional competition. In
making their appeal to ASCE headquarters, the Chapter prepared a
well-written and comprehensive document in defense of their
position. Although disappointed with the final outcome, the
students knew that they had done their best and would remain champions
in their own right.
As a result of this painstaking process, the students learned about
some of the risks associated with the development and implementation of
new technology; that individuals may rely on intuitive reasoning when
they lack the detailed information required to understand relatively new
and complex phenomenon; that managers of large organizations may face
difficult decisions when asked to overturn critical decisions made at
lower levels; and, that life is not always fair. In short, the
twenty eight people involved in this year's effort matured from naive
students to experienced individuals with improved oral and written
communication skills and a better understanding of life in
As a result of the controversy, Ms. Christelle Lindner retired from Team
UAH to work
diligently behind the scenes to improve the rules for the ASCE/MBT
National Concrete Canoe Competition. In 1998, she intensified her
interaction and became co-organizer of
the Committee on National Concrete Canoe Competitions (CNCCC). Our
hats go off to you, Christelle!
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