USU concrete canoe places in top five at nationals

Jun 27, 2013

For the third straight year, Utah State University engineering students have placed at a national concrete canoe competition.

This year’s event was held June 20-23 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Undergraduates at the Logan campus have been constructing the rock-hard vessels for regional races for more than two decades, and in recent years have taken their game to the top. The competition tests both speed and construction techniques. The team’s advisor says a lot of brain power goes into making a concrete canoe float.

This Facebook photo shows members from the USU Concrete Canoe team at a national competition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This Facebook photo shows members from the USU Concrete Canoe team at a national competition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It’s incredibly hard,” said associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Paul Barr. “It’s not an easy thing to do. You think of concrete and the first impression you get is that concrete doesn’t float. Of course you don’t want to build a canoe out of concrete.”

Barr says the exercise helps students think creatively about unique engineering problems.

“The idea is to make students do something that’s just so out of the norm that they would typically do,” he added. “And the idea – and it’s the same thing they’ll do their whole careers – is you not only have to make something and make it work, but you have to make it efficient.”

The USU concrete canoe team took fifth place overall and also placed in other categories. Their water craft weighed just 124 pounds – the lightest of all the schools that compete nationwide.

“It’s lighter than water,” added Barr. “The concrete will float by itself. Water weighs about 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. This was around 50 pounds per cubic foot.”

Utah State is the only school from Utah to ever place in the top 5 at the National Concrete Canoe Competition. The students join 34 universities from across the country to claim that honor. It is estimated that well over 200 schools compete in the canoe event each year.