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2001 - "SURVIVOR"


Overall length of boat:
     22 ft 4 in.

Net weight of canoe: 
     76 lb


     Three Layers of Spatially Separated Un-impregnated Graphite

    1st at Nationals

Regional Conference:
     Auburn University
     Auburn, AL

National Competition:
     San Diego State University
     San Diego, CA

     P: Mitch Meeks
     VP: Sherene Rivzi
     S: Melanie Janetka
     T: Frances Pitruzello

Faculty Advisors:
     Dr. Houssam Toutanji
     Dr. John Gilbert

Contact Members:
     Mr. Tim Barnett
     Mr. John Martin

Coach and Concrete Canoe Chair:
     Mr. Stuart Johnson

Media Relations:
     Mr. Phil Gentry

Technical Editor:
   Ms. Kay Bradburn


UAH secures fifth national title!
Details follow (see 2001 Score Sheets, MBT press release, ASCE News, University Business, and Concrete Construction).

The concrete in our new boat may be the next space age material.  (Press Release)
Coverage by space.com, wired.com, and slashdot.
Entry into U.S. Congressional Record

Beginning June 14, 2001, the world watched as twenty-four student teams representing different regions throughout the United States and Canada faced the ultimate survival challenge afforded by the ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition.  Many individuals had already qualified as survivors after spending countless days and nights readying their entries.  But the true test came at the National Competition where they had to work together with fellow team members while eliminating other teams one by one over a three-day period.  The sole survivor walked away with the first place trophy, a five thousand dollar scholarship, and the national title.  We're pleased to report that that team was...

Team UAH !

A member of the largest and most competitive region in the country, UAH has proudly represented the Southeast Region twelve times at the national level (1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001).  Never finishing lower than seventh place, our five national wins (1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2001) and three second place finishes (1992, 1997, and 1999) give testament to our survival skills.  We remain the only school to have swept the National Competition (1994).

This year, we outsmarted, outperformed, and outpaddled our competitors with "SURVIVOR."

Our efforts in San Diego (click here) were led by chapter president Mitch Meeks and team captains Stuart Johnson and Myia Redic.  The winning effort would not have been possible without the help of our faculty advisors, Drs. Houssam Toutanji and John Gilbert, and our ASCE Huntsville branch contact member Tim Barnett.  Our new CEE Department Chair, Dr. Vijay Gopu, attended the event along with a number of our distinguished alumni.  We would also like to thank the students from our sister schools in the Southeast that attended and supported us at Nationals.  We were pleased that we could deliver a top five finish for the region and trust that our win will help ease tensions in Tallahassee next year.

"SURVIVOR" is a strategically tuned, absolutely resilient structure designed to withstand the rigors of this competition.  It is arguably the best all-around human powered boat ever built and is radically different from all others because it is designed to surge forward between strokes and swim.  This unique survival skill was achieved by lowering the natural frequency of the hull so that the paddlers can drive it toward resonance.  After each paddling stroke, the elastic strain energy stored in the deformed shape is transformed into a forward propulsive component. (Huntsville Times News Article; Decatur Daily News Article).

Details can be found in our first place 2001 UAH design report (PDF Download).

Vital statistics, as well as photographs of the boats and displays showcased by all of this year's national contenders, are now available (2001 Vital Statistics - Displays and Boats).


"SURVIVOR" is 6.8 m (22.3 ft) long and has a mass of 34 kg (equivalent to 76 lb), a maximum width of 81.3 cm (32 in.), and a maximum depth of 27.9 cm (11 in.).  A 757 kg/m3 (47.3 lb/ft3) concrete mix, having an average 7-day tensile strength of 1.77 MPa (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.  The nominal wall thickness is 0.74 cm (0.291 in.).  Our canoe is inherently buoyant.  It is blue and white with multicolored designs.

This year's performance evaluation suggested that our teams would do quite well in the races and they did.  Our men's team, for example, recorded the fastest times of the day in both the slalom/distance and sprint races.

Underlying Technology:

"SURVIVOR" is a first generation prototype that allows civil engineers to view structural mechanics from a completely new vantage point.  The technology underlying our unique creation has captured the attention of the high-tech aerospace companies and governmental agencies in Huntsville who are continuously looking for ways to make their products stronger, lighter, and more durable.  Our efforts have been featured in journals and periodicals worldwide and we have received many requests for additional information from people in countries ranging from South Africa and Australia to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Closer to home, we took center stage at the Aerospace Materials Processes & Environmental Technology Conference last September, and the Huntsville Technical Societies recently donated 300 square feet of prime display space in the Von Braun Center (a $4,500 contribution) to showcase our findings at the HATS/TABES Exposition held May 15th and  16th .  These events helped us to raise some of the funds that we needed to compete in San Diego and gave us opportunities to promote our sponsors to very large and attentive audiences.

At this exposition, our faculty advisors and two of their colleagues from NASA and the Army participated in the 2001 E2 - TEAMS Conference where they revealed their plans to create energy storage devices called "STARS."  The team intends to incorporate these unique concoctions into advanced propulsion and tactical weapons systems.

Dr. Gilbert, one of our faculty advisors, recently delivered a paper in Portland, Oregon in which he described some advanced work on SURVIVOR's materials done with Dr. Robert Vaughan of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.  The citation for this paper is:

Vaughan, R.E., Gilbert, J.A., "Analysis of graphite reinforced cementitious composites," Proc. of the 2001 SEM Annual Conference and Exposition, Portland, Oregon, June 4-6, 2001, pp. 532-535 (get a PDF Download here).

Additional Information on "SURVIVOR":

The hull of our canoe is made by suspending three layers of a very strong and stiff graphite fiber mesh in a relatively weak and flexible concrete matrix.  When the boat is paddled, the graphite and the concrete flex together.  But, since the concrete moves more easily, the fibers in the graphite mesh are forced to absorb most of the load.

This unique interaction prevents the concrete from cracking and, when properly designed, the composite section can withstand more stress and absorb more energy than an advanced aerospace composite made using materials such as graphite and epoxy.

Two of our chapter members and some other students on campus recently put this claim to the test by designing, building, and launching the first rocket made from reinforced concrete [launch video (7913996 bytes; mpeg format; Real Player will work)].  They used the same mix and reinforcement that we used to construct our "SURVIVOR".

The rocket design team was led by Dr. Marlow Moser of our Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.  The people involved in the project are shown in the group photo above.  They are (front row L-R) Kevin Pulliam, Shane Smith, Tammy Wenslow, Brian Barnette, April Burgess, chapter member Frances Pitruzzello, Kevin Buch, and Tim Weaver, (back row L-R) Richard Ponder, Dr. Moser, Ricky Campbell, and Daniel Chhitt.  Another chapter member, Andre Danson, provided the team with the specifications for our mix design. 

According to Ms. Wenslow, "The more we worked with the materials, the more impressed we became."  The vehicle was successfully launched on April 19, 2001.  Things went so well that plans have already been made with Alabama A&M University to build and launch a larger prototype that will serve as a sounding rocket to take micro-gravity experiments into space.  The project is being supported by a number of Huntsville's high-tech aerospace companies and federal agencies including NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Alumni Notes:
Our CEE Department was very fortunate to hire Dr. Vijay Gopu as its new chair.  His attendance and support in San Diego will be long remembered and are greatly appreciated.

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