Students unveil concrete canoe

The MU team’s vessel will compete this weekend.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:19 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

A mixture of sand, water and cement that floats is the key to a group of MU students’ success in constructing a concrete canoe.

The canoe was unveiled Tuesday in MU’s Engineering Building East by the MU Concrete Canoe Team, which is composed mainly of civil engineering students.

“Some teams rely on air pockets to ensure their canoes will float,” said Tom Hiles, captain of the team. “Ours did not need that.”

Along with a miniature steel bridge constructed by another group of engineering students, the concrete canoe has been entered in a regional competition to be held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this weekend.

The regional winner of the competition, which is sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, will advance to a national competition in Washington, D.C., in June.

Judges will consider several criteria, including a written paper that details the work that went into the craft, an oral presentation and a series of races.

Although the ASCE student chapters and clubs have been constructing and racing concrete canoes since the early 1970s, this is the first time since 1996 that MU has entered the competition.

The team’s entry is 20½ feet long, 34 inches wide and 11 inches deep. Constructed entirely of concrete, with two layers of carbon fiber on the exterior, the boat weighs 270 pounds and is designed to carry four people.

Students expressed an interest in entering this year’s competition to MU engineering faculty adviser Vellore Gopalaratnam, who became the team’s adviser.

“Being present this year is a big achievement,” Gopalaratnam said. “There were many days that we thought we would not finish by the deadline.”

Hiles said he was pleased with the end product.

“This year we won’t win,” he said, “but we will make a good showing.”

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