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2000 - "Ingenuity"


Overall length of boat:
     22 ft 9 in.

Net weight of canoe: 
     79 lb


     Three Layers of Spatially Separated Un-impregnated Graphite

     6th at Nationals

Regional Conference:
     Tennessee Tech
     Cookeville, TN

National Competition:
   CO School of Mines
   Golden, CO

     P: Stuart Johnson
     VP: Andre Danson
     S: Susan Irby
     T: Myia Redic

Faculty Advisors:
Dr. Houssam Toutanji
Dr. John Gilbert

Contact Members:
     Mr. Tim Barnett
     Mr. John Martin

Coach and Concrete Canoe Chair:
     Mr. Jon Coign

Media Relations:
     Mr. Phil Gentry

Technical Editor:
   Ms. Kay Bradburn


Synopsis:  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.

A 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 permanent spacers.

Details:  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 the UF 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 follows:

SE Regional 2000 Paper Presentation Display Product Races
Max Points 100 100 100 100 45
Team UAH 97 96 98 99 44
UF 94 93 94 92 40.5
FIT 94 96 99 26 35.7

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 sixth overall.

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 downloads:


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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