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2011 - "ODYSSEY"


Overall length of boat: 6.1 m (20.0 ft)  

Net weight of canoe: 113.3 kg (250 lb)

Concrete: 998 kg/m3 (62.4 lb/ft3)

Reinforcement: Two Layers of Spatially Separated Un-impregnated

Placement: 4th at Regional Conference

Regional Conference: Tennessee Tech, Cookeville, TN

National Competition: University of Evansville, Evansville, IN

     P: Stephen Phillips
     VP: Seth Martin
     S: Joanna Fischer
     T: Jessica Phillips
COB: Stephen Phillips
     SBC: Gilberto Martinez

SEC Conference Coordinator: Jessica Phillips

Community Service Coordinator: Joanna Fischer

Faculty Advisors:
     Dr. Houssam Toutanji; Dr. John Gilbert

Contact Members:
     Mr. Jackie Whitaker
     Dr. Teng K. Ooi

US Navy Campus Liaison Officer:
     Dr. Teng K. Ooi

Concrete Canoe Project Manager:
    Stephen Phillips

Concrete Canoe Project Engineer:
   Seth Martin

Concrete Canoe Team Captains:
   Stephen Phillips, Katie Morell

    Jorge Cacciatore
    Matt Pinkston

Professional Training and Development:
    Mr. John Bentley
Media Relations:
     Mr. Ray Garner

Our competition theme:

So far. Team UAH has proudly represented the Southeast Conference sixteen times at the national level. We have 5 national titles to our credit but our last victory was in 2001.

Some viewed our performances over the past decade as an epic journey akin to that described by Homer in his “Odyssey" where Odysseus took ten years to reach Ithaca after winning the Trojan War.  And, in his absence, many assumed that he and his followers had died. Following this analogy, we decided to christen our boat ODYSSEY  hoping that it would take us home to the winner’s circle, so that everyone would know that we were alive and well.

We expanded on a long range plan developed to transition experience, knowledge, and leadership from our graduate students, alumni, and faculty to our undergraduate contingent. This strengthened our team’s position in last year’s national competition, and instilled in us the confidence, fortitude, persistence, patience, and courage needed to conquer the regional and national contingents by taking the epic journey allegorically depicted on our hull.

We fielded "Odyssey" at the Southeast Conference Concrete Canoe Competition in Cookeville.

The designs were relatively simple but they painted the picture that we wanted to portray..

But just like in Homer's Odyssey, things didn't go exactly as planned.  We were shocked and disappointed when our entry hovered just below the surface in the float test late on Friday afternoon, forcing us to take a 25 point deduction in the final product.

The boat was built to spec but things didn't look so good when it hovered just below the surface in the float tank.

In making our flotation calculations, we forgot to add the extra weight that resulted by staining and sealing the boat with compounds that were slightly heavier than water.  In addition, we had to delay placement by one week due to inclement weather and ended up sealing the boat the night before we left... giving us no time to do a float test before we left for Cookeville.  You can bet your bottom dollar that we'll never make these mistakes again! 

Stephen Phillips, our chapter president and co-captain, drove back to Huntsville to batch up some concrete and our team worked all night to bring the boat into spec for the races so that we could give our competitors a run for their money..

Odyssey outfitted with gunwale protection and retrofitted flotation.

Our persistence was tested late Friday night when our stern paddler and co-captain, Katie Morell, went to the hospital suffering from bronchitis.  We made provisions to replace her in the boat but she decided to race.  After winning the women's endurance race with her team, she paddled in four of the sprint races.    

Our pit crew loaded the team into the boat using a paddler lift bar.

But, true to the trials and tribulations encountered by Odysseus in the Odyssey, our tumultuous journey was far from over.  On Saturday, we received an additional 15 point deduction for allegedly violating the requirement that the total weight of the aggregate(s) had to exceed 25% of the mixture weight.  One of our faculty advisors (Dr. Gilbert) suggested that we appeal this deduction by noting that we received a document different from the one contained in the 2011 ASCE NCCC Rules and Regulations while asking our judges the simple but pertinent question: "Is it fair to add deductions to the Final Product Deduction Score Card contained in the 2011 ASCE NCCC Rules and Regulations once the competition has begun, especially considering that these deductions were not addressed anywhere in the FAQ?"

Rather than debating the legitimacy of the CNCC distributing an Errata on the day that on-site registration took place while giving the impression that we may have intentionally violated the rules and expected to get away with it, we decided to appeal this deduction from a technical standpoint based on what we were told to do by ASCE (see appeal here).

After our request was denied, it was virtually impossible for us to overcome the 40 point deficit... and we had to give way to Florida Tech, Florida, and Vanderbilt.

Ironically, had we been successful in our appeal, we would have placed 9th in the product thereby receiving an additional 5 points in our overall score... making absolutely no difference whatsoever in our final placement.

On the other hand, had we not received any point deductions on our product, we would have finished second in this category.  If things went as they did, our total score would have been 86.9 compared to FIT's 86.8... giving us a win by the narrowest margin possible (0.1 points)... without placing first in any of the four major scoring categories!

So our mistake regarding flotation was costly and the denial of our appeal could have been pivotal.  I guess that's why, after our request to rescind this deduction was denied, Dr. Gilbert remarked to the head judge that he felt that Team UAH had been placed in a no win situation.  He asked, "Is it fair when after receiving classification of a material from the CNCCC, following bolded and italicized instructions given by the American Society of Civil Engineers in the rules for handling the material 'for the purpose of this competition,' that a team be told that they should not have followed those guidelines?"  To their credit, the judges said that they would reconsider, but ultimately decided to stick with their decision; and, Dr. Gilbert seemed to be satisfied with that.

On the bright side, our team faced these and many other obstacles during this stint; and, since we fought valiantly to overcome them, we feel that we emerged from Cookeville as winners.

We were within dimensional specifications.

As it was, we finished third in the design paper, second in the presentation, and third in overall race points in one of the largest and most competitive conferences in the nation.

Our tabletop display looked pretty sharp.

The bid for our sixth national title will just have to wait until next year.  Meanwhile, we'll be rooting for FIT to place top five at nationals. 

The cross section showed how we built our boat.

Our hats go off to Tennessee Tech for doing an excellent job hosting the Southeast Conference especially in the concrete canoe competition where we faced inclement weather throughout the competition.  We would also like to thank the conference judges and the CNCCC for their consideration of our appeal.  Although we do not agree with the rationale given for their decision regarding our aggregate proportioning (we have requested a copy of this and will post it here when we get it), we thought that that we were treated fairly and very much appreciated the time and effort spent by everyone involved.  We would also like to recognize Florida for a job well done and make Vanderbilt aware of the fact that we know just how well they did.  We're looking forward to seeing all of you guys next year at the Southeast Conference in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, may the best team win in Evansville!

About our school and Team UAH:

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) was established fifty years ago as a research institute to support the growing aerospace science and missile fields. Since then, we have become the anchor tenant in the second largest research park in the United States. We have a current enrollment of 7,614 with 190 students enrolled in Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

A large percentage of Team UAH is drawn from other engineering disciplines, particularly mechanical and aerospace. Our unorthodox, multi-disciplinary approach to the Concrete Canoe Competition has helped to make our Chapter successful in competing in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition.

UAH contact information:

Our media contact is Ray Garner.  Ray is a member of University Relations at UAH.  His telephone number is (256) 824-6397.

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

Our media contacts for 2011:

Stephen Phillips (337) 852-1756; John Gilbert (256) 824-6029; Ray Garner (256) 824-6397

If you haven't become actively involved with Team UAH yet, we need your support.  So, please consider becoming a sponsor.

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