By Jacqui Scibior
Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two posts from NPCAF scholarship recipient Jacqui Scibior on her experience with a concrete canoe team at Clarkson University. The second post in this series will be published next spring at the conclusion of ASCE’s annual Concrete Canoe Competition.
Floating across a river in a canoe made of concrete may not sound ideal, but with some engineering innovation, the Concrete Canoe SPEED team at Clarkson University makes it work. As a member of the team, I am working diligently with my colleagues to create a concrete canoe that must float and be capable of carrying passengers down a river. Our journey is a difficult one, involving heavy research, innovation, creativity and teamwork. My team draws from the educational material taught in our engineering classes and we apply this – along with a little innovation and creativity – to create a durable, maneuverable canoe showcasing the versatile uses of concrete.
I am working on the hull design and concrete mix portion of this project. We still have to compete with our canoe, so I’ll have to keep some of our recipe for success a secret. But to help you understand the concept of our project, I can offer some insight.
The team studies and tests a variety of concrete mixtures before choosing a final composition. This year, we will be testing two new mixtures. One introduces the use of hemp, and the other – which I personally proposed – uses horsehair and eggshells. Other materials in our mix include recycled concrete from last year’s canoe, Portland cement, fibers, binders, slag, and glass beads. Ultimately, we will choose the mixture that allows the canoe to float while holding up the best under stress and strain.
We also research a variety of hull designs to optimize our canoe performance. Our hull for this entry is shaped from industrial foam boards that are cut, glued together and sanded down. Fiberglass mesh sheets are surrounded by our concrete mixture, which is left to dry and cure on the industrial foam in a controlled environment. The canoe is then sanded to a smooth surface, painted and given a name. This year’s canoe is known as the “Black Pearl.”
Large sections of industrial foam are added to the front and back ends of the canoe to make it both light and strong. Once the final product is established, it is taken to ASCE’s National Concrete Canoe Competition in the spring. Here, the team is judged on our written report and oral skills in conveying our engineering design as well as construction principles of the canoe. We are then evaluated on our canoe performance while paddling across a river in a race against other teams.
Will we sink or float when we face off against our competitors? Stay tuned for a future blog post to find out.