"1848 - The First Photograph of a Concrete Canoe"

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According to www.ferroboats.com, "the earliest photographic evidence that we have of 'ferro-cement boats' are of the two dinghies built by Joseph Louis Lambot in 1848, in Miraval, Southern France."  According to www.concreteships.org, the boat was featured in the 1855 World's Fair in France.


A photograph taken at the turn of the century showing one of the ferro-cement dinghies built by Lambot in 1848, on the pond at Miraval, France.

During the 1890's, an engineer in Italy named Carlo Gabellini built barges and small ships out of concrete.  But the first ocean-going concrete ship was launched by the Norwegians in 1917.  The U.S. followed suit in 1918.

President Woodrow Wilson had twelve concrete ships built during World War I when steel was in short supply.  Twenty-four more ships were commissioned during World War II.

Although the end of WWII marked the end of large-scale concrete ship building, to this day, smaller recreational boats are still being made from concrete.  But, as explained below by ASCE and Degussa Admixtures, concrete "is the product of a remarkable 5,000-year revolution."

"The History of Concrete"
reprinted from the Press Section of Degussa Admixtures (Master Builders)

It’s in your sidewalk, the foundation of your house, and in countless buildings, bridges, roads and dams around the world.  While concrete has become the most widely used building material in the world, it remains a mystery to many.

Modern concrete, which is a mixture of cement, aggregate, water and chemical admixtures, is the product of a remarkable 5,000-year revolution.  The Egyptians were the first to use a cementing material.  Lime and gypsum mortars were used to build the pyramids in 3000 BC, and were later used by the Greeks around 800 BC.  The Romans, however, were the first to use an admixture to enhance the properties of the lime cement. Between 300 and 476 AD, they mixed pozzolana, a volcanic ash from Pozzuoli, Italy, with slaked lime to form the first "hydraulic cement" – cement that will harden under water.  They used this durable mix to build the Appian Way, Roman baths, Coliseum, and Pantheon, all of which still stand today.

In 1824, Joseph Aspdin, a bricklayer and mason in Leeds, England, created "Portland cement."  This was a precise mixture of limestone and clay that was finely ground and then baked in a kiln to form "clinker," which was then finely ground into cement.  Today, Portland cement is a precise and reliable mixture of calcium, silicon, iron and aluminum, and comprises 98 percent of the cement produced in the U.S.

Since the early use of concrete in U.S. construction projects, such as the Erie Canal completed in 1825, engineers have advanced the technology to build skyscrapers, massive dams and other works.  Today’s concrete is being used by modern engineers in the design and construction of the world’s next engineering wonders.

"From Stone Age to Space Age"


You probably know by now that the world's first rocket made from reinforced concrete was successfully launched on April 19, 2001 by a team led by Dr. Marlow Moser of UAH's MAE Department.  But did you also know that members of our UAH SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) group worked with members of Master Builders' research team to place the first concrete in space?  The experiment was conducted in a "gas can," several years ago, by NASA astronauts working aboard the Space Shuttle.

"History of the ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition"
reprinted from the Press Section of Degussa Admixtures (Master Builders)

Today, engineers, as well as students in the ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition, continue to advance concrete technology as they experiment with admixtures such as latex, superplasticizers, fly ash, and high-tech aggregates to develop extremely lightweight and super-strong concrete mixes.

The origin of concrete canoe competitions can be traced to the 1960s when several ASCE student chapters held intramural races.  Regional races began in the 1970s, and in 1988 the event went national when industry-leading admixture supplier Master Builders, Inc. became the sole corporate sponsor.  Through the years, the competition has become highly competitive and is often referred to as the America’s Cup of college civil engineering.  Many teams spend an entire academic year working on their craft, most without academic credit.

As mentioned above, the history of concrete boat building dates back to 1848 when Joseph Louis Lambot built thin-walled reinforced concrete boats for use at his estate in Miraval, France.  Concrete was also used to build barges during World War II to replace scarce steel supplies.

"Revolutionary New Developments and Better Opportunities"


Did you know that in 1993 our faculty advisor, Dr. Gilbert, negotiated with Marshall Space Flight Center Director, Jack Lee, to obtain graphite pre-preg materials too old for use in the Space Shuttle?  Their discussions allowed us to secure our first national win prompting NASA to pass the first "Space Act" in history.  This mechanism has been used many times since, by other universities throughout the world, to facilitate interaction with this agency. 

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