CLEMSON, SC -- For the second straight year, Clemson University
has won the National Concrete Canoe Competition, billed as
the ultimate think-or-swim collegiate challenge.
Some 260 civil engineering students from across North
America showcased their ingenuity and problem-solving skills
as they raced concrete canoes they designed and built in the
June 24-26 competition in Golden, Colo. The 13th annual
event was organized by the American Society of Civil
Engineers (ASCE) and sponsored by Master Builders Inc.
Results were announced Monday night.
"It's just a source of enormous pride - you can't explain
it," said Clemson's Ron Anderson, a civil engineering
graduate student who is one of the project's co-leaders.
"It's probably the same feeling as running down the hill for
the first time in front of 80,000 people on a football
Student team members include Anderson, project co-leader
Joel Sheets, paddling captain Lissa Henkel, Brad Putman,
Ernest Trussell, Cortney Seamon, Keilah Metcalf, Andrew
Shuler, Janeen Smith, Mike DePalma, Sara Hobbs, Ruthie
Edmondson, Jessica Cummings, Alana Walden, Eric Hartman,
Melanie Frank, Ashley Dearhart, P.J. Cwynar, Cameron Nations
and David Powell.
Clemson won with "Instinct," a sleek 21-foot, 100-pound boat
able to reach speeds of 10 feet per second.
"We are very proud of our students, their faculty advisor
Serji Amirkhanian and the thousands of hours of hard work
they've invested in this project," said James K. Nelson Jr.,
chairman of Clemson's civil engineering department.
The 26 co-ed teams competing this year represented ASCE
student chapters at the nation's premiere engineering
schools -- not to mention the cream of the concrete crop,
having left nearly 200 teams in their wake at regional
run-offs this spring. Finalists vied for $9,000 in
scholarship prizes, as well as the coveted best-boat
In the early years of the competition, students used
sidewalk-variety concrete, but they produced the equivalent
of floating bathtubs that hefted in at 400 pounds. Now,
students use glass beads, micro-balloons, graphite and
carbon-fiber mesh to create canoes that may weigh as little
as 75 pounds and range from 15- to 22-feet long.
Instinct's aggregate recipe -- what in sidewalk days would
have passed for sand or gravel -- included four different
types of glass micro-bubbles, high-performance fibers,
meticulously shredded carbon fibers and a liquid latex. The
team, led by Sheets, adjusted the mix for three long months
until they judged it sound.
"The competition is really about building engineers, not
boats," said Amirkhanian, the group's faculty advisor.
"These hands-on competitions give students team-building
skills and management techniques that are virtually
impossible to learn from textbooks alone."
It's not enough to design, build and race the boat. Team
members must 'sell' the boat with all the enthusiasm they'd
need to pitch and win business contracts in the corporate
world. Clemson's marketing juggernaut included an elaborate
jungle-themed display in which the boat, propped on two
wild-animal cages, straddled a creek flowing with real
Students typically invest about 2,000 hours in the design
and construction of their canoes. Approximately seventy
percent of the score in these competitions is based on
academics, that is, the final canoe and presentations in
which teams creatively market their products (the canoes) to
a panel of judges. As a safety measure, canoes must also
pass a critical "swamp test" in which submerged canoes must
quickly pop up to the surface and float.
The rest of the score depended on the students' paddling
prowess in two-person men's and women's sprint and distance
races, as well as a four-person co-ed sprint race. Another
2,000 hours typically goes into rowing practice.