University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


UH Students Win Regional Concrete Canoe Competition for Second Year


Erin D. McKenzie
Photo by Thomas Shea.
Photo by Thomas Shea.

A team of University of Houston engineering students paddled their way to a second consecutive first place win April 28 at the Texas/Mexico Regional Concrete Canoe Competition.

The students beat out 11 teams competing at Texas’ Corpus Christi Bay for the title. High rankings in each of the four portions of the competition—an oral presentation, engineering term paper, physical display and five canoe races—launched them into the top spot.

“The announcement of UH going back to nationals was sweeter than last year,” said Wade Barnes, UH team captain and three-year concrete canoe veteran. “There were so many teams threatening victory over the UH team. To compete and win regional’s once could be a fluke, but to repeat proved that all the hard work set a tradition and new heritage.”

The team, who chose the name Arevanche (Portuguese for revenge), constructed the canoe over the course of a year.

Vanessa Perez, a senior civil engineering major, remembers the question many asked her when she started the project. “The first thing they always ask is, ‘Does it float?’” Perez said. “I always say, ‘Of course, you just have to make sure the density is lighter than water.’”

This is exactly the job the roughly 22 students were tasked with during the canoe’s development. During its construction, the team put in more than 300 hours crafting a mold from plywood and Styrofoam, mixing concrete and patting the concoction onto the mold by hand.

To ensure the canoe would float, two pieces of Styrofoam were encased into each end of the canoe.  A concrete blend prepared from man-made glass bubbles—similar in size to granulated talcum powder—was used. Barnes described the mixture’s weight – 58 pounds per cubic foot compared to the average 150 – as a combination much lighter than typical driveway or sidewalk concrete.

As the team prepares for the 2008 National Concrete Canoe Competition—taking place June 19-21—they have been utilizing the UH Wellness Center pool for weekly practices. The pool, Barnes said, offers a similar environment to the Montreal, Canada competition, where races will be on water free of currents.

At the competition, UH will compete in five races with 23 teams from 18 regions. It’s a meeting Barnes is excited to attend.

“I am proud and honored to return to nationals with some old and new team members,” Barnes said. “I am amazed at the commitment level University of Houston students put forth to build a winning team with the everyday responsibilities our students have.”


By the Numbers
Weight 215 pounds
Height 13 inches
Width (Largest Portion) 28 inches
Length 20 feet
Seats 5 people
Construction Hours 300+
Project Length 12 months
Ave. Speed in Water for 200-Meter with 180 Degree Turn 6 mph



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