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Enhancing Engineering Education ? Concrete Canoe Competition

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

CE Poster Session in Exhibit Hall

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.665.1 - 12.665.16



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Paper Authors

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Candace Sulzbach Colorado School of Mines

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Concrete Canoe – will it float? With the correct mix of cement, water, aggregate, and admixtures in addition to “Stamina, Teamwork, Strength, Imagination and Commitment,” yes, it will!

The use of concrete to make a canoe is an unusual application of a common building material. In the 1970’s when some civil engineering college students decided to build a canoe using reinforced concrete, concrete boats were not an entirely new idea. In 1848, Joseph Louis Labot of France built the first concrete dingy. The first ocean-going concrete ship was an 84-foot long boat constructed in Norway and launched in 1917. Concrete boats were built during WWII and yachts are still being manufactured from concrete in several countries. American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) student chapters have been building and racing concrete canoes in regional competitions since the early 1970’s. The first national competition was held in 1988 at Michigan State University where 18 teams competed to be national champion.1

Because reinforced concrete is an unlikely material from which to construct a canoe, it forces innovation and creativity in the engineering design phase. Every year students strive to formulate concrete mixtures that are both strong and workable enough to apply to a hull form that will result in a more efficient, faster, more maneuverable and aesthetic concrete canoe. The design/build process required to create a competitive concrete canoe provides civil engineering students with an opportunity to gain hands-on practical experience and leadership skills that will enhance their engineering education. They learn the importance of effective project management and teamwork, including communication, organization, quality and cost control and safety. The technical challenges of the project are quite similar to those encountered in a high-quality undergraduate research project.

Students who participate on a concrete canoe team gain valuable skills that they would not necessarily learn in a standard engineering undergraduate curriculum. The concrete canoe competition is a program that allows civil engineering students to work on a project from start to finish. It is an excellent design/build project requiring an engineering design based on rigorous specifications. Classes, even Senior Design classes, are usually limited as the final product is often conceptual, at most.

Since 1988, up to 250 schools design and build concrete canoes and compete at the regional level every year, hoping to advance to the national competition. If each team has 15 members, this represents 3,750 students who participate on a yearly basis, or 71,250 students since 1988. Building a competitive concrete canoe seems to enhance a civil engineering student’s educational experience and produces an atmosphere of school pride among the hard-working, and competitive group of students.

Sulzbach, C. (2007, June), Enhancing Engineering Education ? Concrete Canoe Competition Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2280

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