Design Teams Full Steam Ahead on Manufacturing, Testing

The Concrete Canoe Team’s new construction method seems to be earning great dividends at a time when very few other investments are. The boat “hatched” from the mold in great shape, and the dual innovation methods of lining the mold with foil tape and spraying the concrete into the mold have really paid off when a smooth-sided boat emerged that should speed through the water. The Miners planned a concrete mixture that is about 10% lighter by volume than water, so floating should be a breeze. Before the boat was hauled to S&T’s secret research lake for the all important swamp* IR1235637.jpg test a few crew members had to grind down the rough concrete gunwales, otherwise climbing into the boat would be a bit uncomfortable.
We don’t yet have pictures of the inaugural boat launch. It is spring break right now, so most students are gleefully ignoring email messages requesting photos. We do know that the boat floated very nicely, even popping back to the surface when pushed under the waves, so now only light sanding and a bit of decorating is needed to get the boat ready for April’s regional races. Oh, yeah, and practice, practice, practice**. The Miners still have to build display stands and a representative cross section and prepare their engineering data and oral reports. There is even discussion underway to recycle an old steel bridge frame as a wheeled support structure. That’s a good thing, because anyone who has carried one of these canoes will tell you, it may be able to float, but it is still concrete.
*The swamp is not where they take the boat, it’s what they do. At ASCE-sponsored competitions each team must prove that if its the boat rolls over it will remain buoyant enough that it can be recovered. If a canoe doesn’t pop back to the surface the team is assessed penalty points and must add some floatation chambers. That’s a whole lot easier from trying to recover what would essentially be an eighteen-foot-long rock from the bottom of a lake.
** Most canoes have a keel that runs the length of the boat, making it easy to paddle in a straight line. The stone boats aren’t so lucky and it takes a lot of body english and well-coordinated paddling to do well in the slalom and endurance races. And that, of course, is where the fun begins.