Overall length of boat:
22 ft 9 in.
Net weight of canoe:
Three Layers of Spatially Separated
6th at Nationals
CO School of Mines
P: Stuart Johnson
VP: Andre Danson
S: Susan Irby
T: Myia Redic
Dr. Houssam Toutanji
Dr. John Gilbert
Mr. Tim Barnett
Mr. John Martin
and Concrete Canoe Chair:
Mr. Jon Coign
Mr. Phil Gentry
Ms. Kay Bradburn
We christened our boat "Ingenuity"
because thatís what it took to make the technological breakthroughs
required to solve the overwhelmingly difficult engineering problems that
faced us. Our boat was 22.75 ft long and weighed 79 lb. It
had a maximum width of 34 in., and a maximum depth of 13.25 in.
The nominal wall thickness of the hull was 0.291 in.
47.3 lb/ft3 concrete mix, having an average 7-day tensile
strength of 256 psi, was used to produce the hull. We placed this water
resistant concrete by hand over three layers of a graphite mesh, and
employed an ingenious construction scenario to eliminate
True to form, we reached some remarkable conclusions, some of which may
influence the reinforced concrete community. The hull speed of our
boat was a formidable 14.2 ft/sec enabling us to set a new women's
sprint record of 1:17:04 in regional competition.
Alumni Notes: For the first
time in history, there were three representatives from the Southeast
at the ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition. We
won the regional competition
followed closely by the University of Florida (UF) and the Florida
Institute of Technology (FIT). UAHís second place finish at last yearís
nationals entitled UF to attend nationals. FIT earned their bid for the national title by
hosting the 1999 competition.
The Southeast Regional competition was hosted by Tennessee Tech and
held March 30th through April 1st in Cookeville,
Tennessee. It went on record as one of the best run competitions
in history. The annual business meeting also went very
well. We modified the Southeast Charter and mutually agreed to
improve all ten competitions by forwarding helpful suggestions to next
year's host, Auburn University.
We won the concrete canoe competition giving us an opportunity to
reclaim our national title from Clemson this June. The Regional races mirrored the national competition with some
race times faster than those seen at the national level. Our womenís long distance team, for example, completed the slalom/distance
course in 4 minutes 34 seconds, beating their nearest competitor from
by 40 seconds. Our women's time was only 19 seconds slower than the fastest
menís time recorded by UF. Our menís team placed
second in the distance race, 5 seconds off UFís winning pace. We
raised the bar when our womenís sprint team set a new
record by finishing the course in 1 minute 17.04 seconds. We won
the menís and coed sprints in near record time, with the teams from UF
finishing only a few feet behind.
If your computer is equipped with Windows Media Play or its
equivalent, you can view a streaming video of our float
test (asf format; 455905 bytes - Windows Media Player will work) and women's
distance race (asf format; 5699599 bytes - Windows Media Player
will work) at the regional.
The scores for the three representatives to nationals were as
The ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition was hosted by
the Colorado School of Mines and Technology and held June 24th
through June 26th in Golden, Colorado. The races were
held on Big Soda Lake. It was the most
competitive to date with a number of teams looking to take the national title
from Clemson. But Clemson proved unstoppable and won the competition for a
second time followed by Oklahoma State, the Florida Institute of Technology,
Michigan State University, and the University of Washington. UAH placed
Clemson won the competition with a 21-ft, 100-pound canoe named
"Instinct," constructed of a concrete mix with lightweight aggregates
and polypropylene mesh reinforcement. They incorporated ribs to prevent
excessive deflection and provide needed strength.
Clemsonís multilayered reinforcement scheme was very similar to UAH's.
The main difference was that our graphite reinforcement mesh was stronger and
stiffer than theirs, making it possible for us to eliminate ribs. But both
canoes emerged unscathed from the competition, proving once again that
remarkable structural performance can be achieved provided that materials are
selected and positioned well in a reinforced concrete composite section.
In all honesty, we expected to do better at nationals but, following a very
strong regional effort, were plagued by financial, physiological, logistical,
and technical problems. We overextended our budget and spent far too much
time raising funds; the funds that we did generate were not transferred
efficiently, creating immense stress on our faculty advisors and precluding the
possibility of sending our team to Golden early; one of our key players was
called upon to help coordinate a space mission at Kennedy Space Flight Center on
race day forcing us to completely revise our delivery two weeks before the
competition; our teamís arrival in Golden was delayed and, when we finally got
there, were unable to schedule practice sessions due to high winds and inclement
weather; the risks taken in our display (touch screen, big screen TV, reference
manuals, props, etc.) and while making our presentation (audio score,
choreography, etc.) did not pay off; and, our polymeric drag reduction actually
worked against us on race day.
Aside from these problems, we underestimated Clemson. While building
and designing our boat, we were working under the assumptions that we had the
fastest hull in the game, and had pressed the design envelope to the point where
it was impossible to increase the top speed of our canoe. So, as opposed
to making our boat travel faster, we strove to reduce deceleration. Our
strategy was to increase our average velocity so that our team could travel from
point A to point B faster. We widened and flared our hull to increase
stability, and rounded the bottom to reduce drag.
All looked good until Clemson produced a faster hull. 3CT (Clemson Concrete Canoe Team) accomplished
this by narrowing their last yearís boat. They reduced the flare in the
side walls but increased stability by incorporating hard chines and a
predominately flat bottom. The team was smart enough to
spend a few days on the lake in Golden prior to the event, and fortunate enough
to train at altitude. Their radical design coupled with the attention to
detail enabled 3CT to dominate the field.
In retrospect, we concede that the mode of presentation incorporated into our
display may not have been compatible with the manner in which the judges
performed their evaluation. A loose wire in our audio circuit delayed the
musical score in our presentation, making our presenters uneasy from the start.
It was a good thing that our audio-visual team was able to fix the problem
before our team was forced to ad-lib. No telling what the judges would
have thought had our presenters begun to gyrate and interact without
music. Hey, but who knows, it may have been so funny that we may have
won. Lastly, who could have guessed that the rainy conditions on race day
would facilitate capillary action on our paddles, allowing our long chain
polymers to spew up the shafts making the paddles impossible to grip.
It goes to show you that there are always new lessons to be learned.
The good news is that the only price that we pay to learn them at the national
concrete canoe competition is to sacrifice a little bit of our pride.
Despite the problems encountered, the team had a great deal of fun and made many new friends at the competition.
Additional details can be found in a feature article
run by the Huntsville Times immediately following the competition, as well as,
an article written by us.
The top five design reports for the 2000 competition are available as PDF
Dr. Schonberg decided to relinquish the helm of our department after
accepting a very lucrative offer from the University of Missouri-Rolla to become
their department chair. While at UAH, he published over 35 refereed journal articles
and presented more than 35 papers in a broad spectrum of international scientific and professional
meetings. Two of Dr. Schonberg's Ph.D. students and 13 of his Master's students
are now employed in the United States space and aerospace industry. We'll
miss him and the support that he gave our chapter for nearly fourteen years.
"Thanks, Bill, for accepting my challenge to build a high-tech,
space-based civil engineering program here at UAH. Your hard work,
dedication, and perseverance really paid off. I really appreciate it and
we all wish you and Jane the very best of luck in the future. Don't forget
to stop in and see us when you're in town." - John (Gilbert)
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