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UH Concrete Canoe Team Wins Third Place at Regionals

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Esmeralda Fisher
2013 UH Concrete Canoe Team (photo provided by Scott Wallace)

A team of University of Houston engineering students took third place at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Texas/Mexico Regional Concrete Canoe Competition.

The competition gives students an opportunity to apply engineering principles to the task of building a canoe made entirely of concrete. Fourteen schools from the region arrived in Corpus Christi last weekend to compete in canoe races, as well as categories of final product, display, technical paper, and an oral presentation.

The 240-pound canoe, designed and built by the UH team named Cougar Construction, was created over many months.

"We put in hundreds and hundreds of hours," said team captain Scott Wallace, a civil engineering senior. Conceptual idea, planning, and acquiring materials began in the fall semester, and heavy construction was underway in the spring.

The team constructed the canoe on a form, applying concrete in two layers each a quarter-inch thick, building up to its total thickness of a half inch. Once the hull was cured and dry, the team sanded it to finish the exterior, added a gunnel, and applied graphics. The judges took note of the UH team’s unique approach to adding "flair:" instead of the usual spray-on method, color was poured into the concrete.

Judges awarded Cougar Construction second place in the final product category.

Races included men’s sprints, men’s endurance, women’s sprints, women’s endurance, and a co-ed sprint. Scott Wallace and co-captain John Sanchez placed second in the men’s sprint, with a time of 1:40 at a distance of 200 meters. The UH team finished strong in the other racing categories, coming in either third or fourth.

This year, the team prepared for the competition with practice runs at Lake Houston, a location with a clear advantage over Buffalo Bayou, the practice area typically used. "The bayou has a current and it gives you a little extra speed, but when you’re in a lake with crosswinds, it’s a more realistic place to practice," said Redweik, noting the windy conditions of the coastal competition site.

Approximately 20 students helped build the canoe and traveled to Corpus Christi for the competition. The captain noted that passing along the tradition and knowledge of the concrete canoe was central to this year’s team development. "We’ve involved more underclassmen, so more people can learn about it and get exposure to the event," said Wallace. "We promoted two junior captains to shadow us and learn as much as possible to take it over next year. We’re trying to make sure it has hooks further down in the organization."

See photos from the 2013 ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition



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