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2002 - "STARS and Stripes"


Overall length of boat:
     6.7 m (21.96 ft)

Net weight of canoe: 
     32.6 kg (72 lb)

757 kg/m3 (47.3 lb/ft3)

     Three Layers of
Spatially Separated

    2nd at Regional

Regional Conference:
     Florida A&M - Florida State
     Tallahassee, FL

National Competition:
     University of Wisconsin
     Madison, WI

     P: Todd Watts
     VP: Bryan Cheatwood
     S: Crystal Bennett
     T: Myia Redic; Sarah Yeldell

Faculty Advisors:
     Dr. Houssam Toutanji
     Dr. John Gilbert

Contact Members:
     Mr. Tim Barnett
     Mr. John Martin

Concrete Canoe Chair:
     Mr. Jackie Whitaker

     Mr. Todd Watts

Media Relations:
     Mr. Phil Gentry

Technical Editor:
   Ms. Kay Bradburn


"STARS & Stripes" was the fastest and most technologically advanced all-around human powered boat ever built by Team UAH.  It was a Strategically Tuned Absolutely Resilient Structure whose shape and uncharacteristically large deflections were measured by depositing and projecting Stripes onto the hull.  Along with the University of Florida (UF), we established three new sprint records in the concrete canoe competition:

Men's Sprint (UAH) - 1:05:97
Women's Sprint (UF) - 1:12:00
Co-Ed Sprint (UAH) - 1:07:34

The boat was 6.7 m (21.96 ft) long and had a mass of 32.6 kg (a weight of 72 lb), a maximum width of 77.5 cm (30.5 in.), and a maximum depth of 34.3 cm (13.5 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 was 0.74 cm (0.29 in.).  The canoe was inherently buoyant and painted red, white, and blue.

The Southeast Regional Student Competition (Conference Photos) was held April 4-6, 2002 in Tallahassee, Florida.  Events were hosted by Florida A&M - Florida State University and the concrete canoe races were held on Lake Bradford.

Team UAH paddlers included (top left to right) Sara Yeldell, Kari Salomaa, Crystal Bennett Echols, (bottom left to right) Matt Barron, and Paul Robichaux.

At the competition, we were forced to use the host's equipment and ran into some technical problems during the oral presentation.  The glitch was enough to give the University of Florida the competitive edge that they needed to win and represent the Southeast at nationals in Wisconsin.

Competition Report:

We won the design report category by a very small margin over UF and placed second in the final product behind the University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez.  UPRM had a great boat with a fantastic paint job.  They integrated their exposed strip very well into their design and received a perfect score from 4 out of 5 judges.  We received two perfect scores for our product and the same average score as UPRM from the five judges.  UF placed third in this event.

"STARS & Stripes" gets the once over by the judges.

The display category was equally competitive and we received the same average score that UF did from the five judges.  But UF had four perfect scores compared to our three and, with the high and low scores removed, won the event by a very small margin.

The judges were impressed by our display.

Prior to the competition, we were told by FAMU/FSU that we were required to use their equipment for the presentation and that we would not be allowed to test our software prior to the event.  We expressed our concern over these issues and asked them for very detailed specifications regarding the type of computer, the clock speed, the operating system, and the peripherals.  We were told that they had a Toshiba Satellite Laptop with a Pentium 3 Processor that had a clock speed of 1.10 GHz, 512 MB Ram, and external speakers.

 Due to the size and complexity of our presentation and the fact that we were told that the computer was running Power Point 2000, we elected to use the Power Point “Pack and Go” function to package our presentation on a CD.  This standard function packages the software as a self-extracting file that allows the presentation to be unpackaged on another computer.

As explained to us by one of the judges, the Windows 2000 operating system that was on the computer in question, did not allow self-extracting executable files to be run unless the user had administrative authority over the system.  Since there was not a system administrator available and this authorization was not provided, we could not launch our software.  We made every effort to use the host’s computer.  But, as a last resort, we were forced to use one of the slower laptops that we had on hand.

Although we finished the presentation on time, the team was slightly shaken because our slides ran a bit out of sequence.  Due to the slow clock speed of the computer that we were using, most of the mpeg files that had taken us months to prepare didn't even run.

Considering the underlying circumstances, the team did well in the question and answer session.  But four out of five judges elected to assess penalty points, placing us fourth in the event.  That's all it took for UF to gain the competitive edge that they needed to win and represent the Southeast in Wisconsin at the national level.

The races also got off to a shaky start.  After FIT recorded a very fast time in the women's slalom/distance race, UF was told that they failed to properly negotiate a buoy and were assessed a one minute penalty.  After successfully negotiating most of the slalom, our woman's team was called back because the clock did not start.  When we went through the course again, our bow paddler hooked a buoy rope and was forced to drop her paddle.  After a mad scramble, she retrieved it and the team finished a distant second behind FIT.  UF ended up third in this event.

UAH is momentarily "up the creek without a paddle."

Great recovery ladies!

The men's distance race went more smoothly.  UF finished first a couple of seconds ahead of us with FIT in third.

We ended up third behind UF and FIT in the women's sprint.  The UF women's team was awesome here and established a new record for this event during their preliminary run (1:12:00).

Although the results were debated and the winning time negated, we finished first in the men's sprint beating the record time (1:05:97) that we established in our preliminary run.  Evidentially, the results recorded for UF and UAH were mistakenly interchanged.

Not much doubt who finished first in the men's sprint final.
 Team UAH (foreground)  is clearly ahead of the UF Gators (background).  But...

However, a careful review of video tapes shot by UF and UAH showed that both teams finished in the wrong lane.  Since UF did not register a complaint for being forced out of their lane by us, each team should have received a 30 second penalty.  In this case, the results should have been:

FAMU/FSU - 1:18:56
FIT - 1:25:58
UAH - (1:05:57 + 0:30:00) 1:35:57
UF - (1:06:22 + 0:30:00) 1:36:22
UTK - 1:36:81.

On a brighter note, we also won the co-ed sprint and set a new record for this event (1:07:34).  UF finished second and FIT placed third.

In an effort to resolve the controversy over the men's sprint, it has been suggested that FAMU/FSU be awarded an alternate first place trophy and the spreadsheet corrected to reflect what actually occurred.

Our calculations show that the changes in race points do not change the final overall standings in the competition.  However, in the water, the results should have been:

UF and UAH - 40 points each
FIT - 39 points
FAMU/FSU - 34 points
UPRM - 21 points.

The tie for first between UAH and UF and the close finishes by FIT and FAMU/FSU reflect the reality of what traditionally occurs on the beach in the Southeast.

Team UAH pays one last tribute to the "STARS & Stripes."

Our hats go off to FAMU/FSU for the excellent job that they did in hosting the competition and to UF for a job well done.  We wish the Gators well in Wisconsin and expect them to bring back top honors to our region!

We plan to send a team to observe the nationals and look forward to seeing all of you there.  Be sure to tune into concretecanoe.org for comprehensive coverage of the event.

Underlying Technology:

We took advantage of the deformations that occurred in our boat to make it surge forward between strokes and swim.  The technology underlying our unique design is considered by many to be a milestone in structural mechanics.  We recently received a Congressional set aside to explore the possibility of using our materials to retrofit parts in aerospace vehicles (article) and are working with NASA in that regard.

Samples of our space-age concrete and graphite reinforced cementitious composite sections are on display through May in the Royal Institute of British Architects in London.  The exhibition entitled, "Hardcore! Concrete's rise from Utility to Luxury," was conceived and curated by Scarlet Projects who specialize in architecture and design exhibitions and events.  The aim of the exhibition is to celebrate concrete's amazing versatility as a high-performance material.

Team UAH's concrete is currently being exhibited at "Hardcore" in London.

You may want to check out Paddler Magazine to see what Jim Moodie had to say about last year's competition.  Also watch for an upcoming article in New Scientist by David Cohen regarding the possibility of building submarines out of concrete.  It should be very interesting.

If steel can float, concrete can fly!   ... John A. Gilbert

UAH Contacts:

Our media contact is Phil Gentry.  Phil is a member of University Relations at UAH.  His telephone number is (256) 824-6420.

Our faculty advisors are Dr. Houssam Toutanji [(256) 824-6370] and Dr. John Gilbert [(256) 824-6029].

Regarding the current racing season:

As part of our contribution to the 150th anniversary of ASCE, we recently compiled a list of web sites for all schools that have chapters and clubs in the SOUTHEAST, and, "For the Record," have compiled a comprehensive summary spanning the fourteen year history (1988-2001) of the National Concrete Canoe Competitions.

Speaking of the latter, the 2002 ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition will be held in Madison,Wisconsin and hosted by the UW Student Chapter at the University of Wisconsin.  The competition is scheduled for June 20th (Thursday) through June 24th (Monday).  The National Steel Bridge Competition will be held at same time in honor of the 150th anniversary of ASCE.  UW also plans to hold a job fair in the Kohl Center.  They have an absolutely magnificent campus (click here for a Virtual Tour or a campus map) and this event will be nothing short of spectacular.

UW Madison's 150th Anniversary National Student Conference Page

The Terrace plays host to a variety of activities.  Photo from UW virtual tour.

But ladies and gentlemen, if you plan to be there as a competitor, you had better raise your gunwales because the races will be held in front of the Terrace on Lake Mendota.  We raced at this site when we won Nationals in 1996.  Although the weather was good, the water was rough - very rough (see above photo).

1996 - UAH men's team races on Lake Mendota in the "Spirit of America."

Important links to UW are:

Regarding our 2001 stint:

UAH wins fifth national title in San Diego.

With only two newcomers, and several veteran teams back after missing the last year or two, the 2001 contenders constituted the most experienced group in the fourteen year history of the ASCE/MBT National Concrete Canoe Competition.

Details and information regarding the 2001 competition can be found as follows:

News articles written about the boat and the paddlers prior to the National Competition include:

About "ConcreteCanoe.org"

As many of you know by now, we launched ConcreteCanoe.org on August 28, 2001 in an effort to bring all active concrete canoe sites, as well as pertinent activities, commentaries, rule changes, and other information provided by the CNCCC, ASCE, MBT, our competitors, and us to the attention of the general public.

This is our primary contribution to the 150th anniversary of ASCE and you'll see little UAH bias there.  Several animated gifs, like the ones shown below, are currently available for download and inclusion on your site.  The banners come with and without reference to Team UAH.

In the future, we plan to include tips on how to expand your web image and fund raise to ease the financial burdens associated with competing at the regional and national competitions.  We hope to solicit help from other schools to maintain data bases, software libraries, gif images for chapter promotion, etc.  Suggestions for getting involved are listed throughout the new site.

This is one of the largest undertakings in our history, and we need all the help that we can get.  Thank you in advance for your support!

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Additional details regarding our preparation for the 2003 competition can be found in our Current Events section.

Back to Competition History

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