Home Page

1998 - "Rapid Fire"


Overall length of boat:
     23 ft

Net weight of canoe: 
     49 lb


     Two Layers of Un-impregnated Graphite Separated by Balsa Wood Strands

     1st at Nationals

Regional Conference:
 Vanderbilt University
 Nashville, TN

National Competition:
  South Dakota SM&T
  Rapid City, SD

     P: Alison Symes
     VP: Shana Hooth
     S: Jennie McGee
     T: Jonathan Carr

Faculty Advisors:
     Dr. John Gilbert
     Mr. Bob Dieterich

Contact Members:
     Mr. Tim Barnett
     Mr. John Martin

     Mr. Greg Laue
     Mr. Jon Coign  

Media Relations:
     Mr. Phil Gentry

Technical Editor:
   Ms. Kay Bradburn

Synopsis:  We used balsa wood strands to separate two layers of an unimpregnated graphite fiber mesh, and produced the lightest and longest concrete canoe in history.  The boat won best product at nationals which helped us to win our fourth national title.  Our boat was 23' long and weighed 49 lbs. The concrete (35 lb/ft3; 510 psi) had an elastic modulus of 22 ksi. 

Details:  Our goal was to produce the lightest, longest, and fastest concrete canoe in history.  We turned up the heat in Rapid City with "Rapid Fire."

We built a 23í long, 49 lb canoe by placing concrete over two layers of graphite mesh separated by balsa wood strands.

We empirically tuned and verified our analytical work, and adopted the strategy that, "One test is worth 1,000 expert opinions!".

The cold and shallow water in Rapid City slowed the boat down, allowing Clemson to win the races, but we scored enough points to win out fourth national championship.

Alumni Notes:  The regional representatives that moved forward in the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions had done very well the year before and it was apparent that the better the regional competitions were run, the better chance that we would do well at the advanced level.  Since FIT and UAH finished first and second at nationals, respectively, the regional competition ended up becoming a fight for second place.  After it was apparent that we could not be beaten, FIT and the University of Florida pulled out all the stops in an effort to qualify for the national competition.  To their credit, FIT squeezed out the second spot, but by a very slim margin.

The national competition was run very well in Rapid City.  Some schools received point deductions for rule violations, but only after they were given the opportunity to defend their positions.

We had not taken water temperature and depth into account when designing "Rapid Fire," and Clemson's boat was much more suited to the cold and shallow water.  They could not be beaten on the lake, and ended up as only the third school in the history of the competition to sweep all five races.  Clemson's 3CT (Clemson's Concrete Canoe Team) finished third overall.  But, had it not been for point deductions, they would have finished a very close second.

During a practice session on the day before the races, a crack developed in the critical section located directly below the front paddler.  After practicing seven days a week for eight months and winning a spot in competition with his fellow team members, Chapter president, Jon Coign, relinquished the bow position in the slalom/long distance race to a fellow paddler who was 40 pounds lighter.  Dr. Gilbert felt that the damaged structure was sufficiently robust to take Jonís weight but when he expressed this view to Jon in private, Jon said that he had made an executive decision that was not debatable.  Jon's unselfish action prevented further damage to our canoe, allowing us to win the best product category.  As a result, Dr. Gilbert nominated Jon for the UAH Distinguished Leader Award which he subsequently received from the Office of Student Affairs.

According to the UAH tradition established in 1993, president-elect Greg Laue led the team to the podium to pick up our first place trophy.  Greg filled it with champagne and passed it around the room.

According to the ASCE media coverage report, totals for print, television, and radio coverage reached an estimated 119 million readers/audience.  Remarkably, we had tied Berkeley's record of four national wins.  We were now on the verge of realizing Dr. Gilbert's vow, made in 1988, to beat UCB more times than they had beaten us.

Back to Competition History