Home Page "Just Getting Started" - These tips are for you!

Overall length of boat:
21.5 ft

Net weight of canoe:
75 lb

     Specific weight:    45
     Elastic modulus: 100 ksi

     Tensile strength:
150 psi

     Symmetrically positioned, spatially separated layers of material having a high elastic modulus (graphite, steel, etc.).

Welcome to the best kept secret on the web!  Your competitors don't want you to be here because they know that knowledge is power, and power comes from knowing details.  So why are we giving you this information?

Partly, it's because we've won $32,500 in prize money from Master Builders and feel obligated to give something back.  If you've reviewed our competition history, you already know how the exposure helped us get the resources that we so desperately needed from our administration to secure accreditation for our program in 1989, and departmentalize in 1991.  Besides, our major competitors know a lot of this stuff already.

But, the publicity helps us back at UAH and gives us a chance to make new friends throughout the world, making it even more fun for us when we compete.

You should know that the veterans of this competition have their own ideas about what it takes to win but some of them are somewhat reluctant to divulge them.  We are too to some degree.  But we have decided to assume the role of an aggressive innovator... planning to raise the bar even more next year, always keeping one step ahead of the pack.  At least, we hope to.

Who knows, this section may help you to squeeze between us and one of the big guns at nationals.  In that case, we may be thanking you for giving us the edge that it takes to stay on top.  Don't worry though, if you use this information to beat us at our own game, we'll give you the standing ovation that you deserve.  All we ask in return is that you reference the material; and, when you win, look over your shoulder, give us a nod, and say thanks!  Good luck and enjoy your stay with Team UAH.

Hot Tips:  Before we begin, we would like to invite you to contact us for help and/or further information.  More importantly, if you have a hot tip to add to our site, we'll post a one line summary here, give you credit, and provide a link to the web site where you place the information.  If you don't have a web site available, we'll post it for you.  Take, for example:

  • Hot Tip No 1. (Team UAH):  "Spacing reinforcement uniformly in the composite section without using permanent spacers."

  • Hot Tip No 2. (Team UAH):  "Predicting your teams' performance."

  • Hot Tip No 3. (Team UAH):  "Tensile test measurements."

  • Hot Tip No 4. (Team UAH):  "Testing your reinforcement for compliance."

Getting started:  OK, so you want to build a concrete canoe, beat your Regional competitors, and take a shot at winning the national title.  If you're like most of us, you've got a copy of the rules, and are are pretty overwhelmed.  So, what now?

Start by reading the article written by us on competition strategy and review the most recent top national design reports (PDF Downloads).

Look at the tips that we presented at the 1999 ASCE national convention (Power Point Presentation; you must have the package installed on your machine), and review the articles (using the links embedded in the text on our home page) to read more about how to build your boat.  You may also want to look at our competition history to see what you're getting yourself into.  The more you know about us and the competition, the more advantage you have.

A few of the parameters that you will need to consider come next.  The last slide in this section is the most important of all, since these are the schools that you must beat to win the national title.

Boat Length:  In general, the longer the boat, the higher the hull speed.  There is a point (22.5 ft or so), however, where the parasitic drag becomes so high that it defeats the women's team and makes the boat very difficult to maneuver.  Most of the boats that are competitive at nationals range in length between 19 and 22 feet.  The following graph shows how our length has changed through the years.  A length of 21.5 ft is suggested.

Net Weight:  In general, the lighter your boat the better.  There is a point (75 lb or so), however, where the momentum associated with the movement of the men's team overwhelms that of the boat.  Their higher center of gravity coupled with a more aggressive style rocks and pitches the canoe, and this energy is lost.  Because a lighter boat sits higher in the water, the women's team will also have trouble controlling it in high winds and rough water.  The following graph shows how the weight of our canoe has changed through the years.  By building a 23 ft long boat that weighed 49 lb in 1998, we are the only school who can claim to have pressed the design envelopes too far in both length and weight.

Remember, this is net weight and does not account for the weight of your paddlers.  If it can be achieved, a net weight of 75 lb is suggested.

Specific Weight of Concrete:  In general, the lighter the mix, the better; since, a lighter concrete gives you more design flexibility.  But other factors must be considered, such as the modulus and the strength.

A lightweight concrete usually has low strength, so make sure that it is compliant (E ~ 100 ksi).  That's right, we mean 100 ksi!  So, become familiar with polymer enhanced concrete.

The following graph shows how the specific weight of our concrete has changed through the years.  A specific weight of 45 lb/ft3 is about right.

Concrete Strength:  In general, the stronger the better.  The following graph shows how the compressive strength of our mix has changed through the years.

We should point out, however, that concrete compressive strength is not a critical design parameter if your build your canoe with adaptive reinforcement.  Since cracks can not be tolerated and the compressive strength of the mix is always higher than the tensile strength, the latter is much more important.  A tensile strength of approximately 150 psi will do if you use adaptive reinforcement and compliant concrete.

Competition:  As shown in the chart below, there have only been seven schools to win the national concrete canoe competition.  Four schools have won more than once; UAH has won five times, Berkeley four times, Clemson three times, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison twice.  Know your competition, and check their websites often.

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