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1987 - "Big Blue"


Overall length of boat:
     14 ft

Net weight of canoe: 
     286 lb

130 lb/ft3

     Double Layer  of Chicken Wire

     5th at Regional

Regional Conference:
   U. of Central Florida
   Orlando, FL

     P: Laura Blount
     VP: Adrian Rollins
     S/T: John Moore

Faculty Advisors:
     Dr. Bill Kane
     Dr. John Gilbert
     Dr. Bill Schonberg
     Mr. Jim Worden

Contact Member:
     Mr. David Pope

Synopsis:  With its complex curves and relatively sleek profile, "Big Blue" was a staggering improvement over our first attempt.  The boat was 14' long and weighed only 286 lbs.  Concrete (130 lb/ft3; 5,826 psi) was placed over a double layer of chicken wire.  We finished fifth overall at the Southeast regional and won several trophies for racing the concrete canoe.

Details:  Metal spacers were used to hold tension wires in place, and a chicken wire mesh was tied to the wires.  In an effort to be hi-tech, we referred to the mesh a "poultry restraining device."

All went well until we decided to paint our flotation cavities the night before the races.  On race day, we watched in horror as the material continued to disappear.

Alumni Notes:  When we attended our first banquet the year before, we realized that the concrete canoe competition was only one of ten events that counted toward our overall score.  We set our goal to compete in all events, and proudly accomplished this goal.  Our dress at the banquet was a far cry from the shorts and t-shirts worn the year before.

It was pretty difficult, however, to gain the respect from our competitors on the playing field.  Our balsa wood bridge, for example, held about 10 lb and deflected at least 10 inches before we finally told our host to stop loading it.  The only means of transporting our concrete canoe was a thirty five year old truck, and we heard lots of chuckles when we unloaded our boat at the race site.  Who would have guessed then that next year we would have the last laugh!

Dr. Gilbert and teammate Jim Worden narrowly missed winning the faculty sprint by finishing behind a second or so behind Vanderbilt.  But, the faculty finished the course 40 seconds faster than the fastest men's team.  UAH placed second in the design report category.

Upon returning from the regional competition, Dr. Gilbert expressed his concern regarding the non-accredited status of the civil engineering program, and the mechanical engineering chair and the dean appointed him director of civil engineering.  Mr. Jim Worden and Dr. Bill Schonberg were recruited to the faculty ranks but we had lost Dr. Kane to UT Knoxville.

After Dr. Gilbert announced to the student body that we were not accredited by ABET, two of our civil engineering students decided to enroll elsewhere; the others agreed to work together to secure accreditation.  To expand our ranks, we invited students from all engineering disciplines to join our club.  That was one of the best decisions that was ever made in the history of the organization.

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