Concrete Canoe at Illinois


The first question that everybody always asks is, ya know, “Does it float?” People say like, “I don’t think
that would work.” We all think of concrete as something that’s on the
sidewalks and you don’t really think a concrete canoe could really float. When especially non-engineers hear the word concrete canoe it seems like an oxymoron. We broke into two separate teams. We had a construction team and we had a mix team. The construction team was responsible for making the actual mold to actually find out what the shape of the canoe’s gonna
be and then the mix team, they would test different mixes,
different aggregates and components to make sure that whatever that specific mix was, that it could float. Sort of like you’re baking a cake, no matter what your gonna be using flour and sugar. It’s just how much flour and how much sugar do you use to get whatever type of cake you’re going for. The mix design is really crucial to make sure that we know that it’ll actually survive the races. Every year one other requirements is we have to have a theme. This year we decided on “Cementary.” Our logo has always been a skeleton which is canoeing because the Boneyard Yacht Club and so we wanted to sort of tie that in because it’s the 40th anniversary of concrete canoeing. University of Illinois and Purdue raced in
the first intercollegiate concrete canoe race and University of Illinois actually won. The canoeing tradition at U of I starts early. In 1971 Clyde Kessler at the University
challenged his class to build a concrete canoe. Sort of said, “Concrete is so great, we could do anything even build a canoe out of it.” At the
end of the year they finished the boats they called “Mis-led.” The successive year Purdue challenged us to a race. Purdue’s boat capsized in the final race which led us to win. Now it’s become a national competition with 20 schools making it to a nationals but we have 20 different regional competitions. It’s a team sport. Go outside, get
exercise. People get very enthusiastic about it. We all put in our time and in the end we come up with what I think is a pretty cool product.

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