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berkeley cybear concrete canoe competition The Great Concrete Canoe Race

skillbuilder concrete 158x158 The Great Concrete Canoe Race

For me, Concrete Month has been about discovering all kinds of amazing uses for a material that, before, had seemed pretty mundane. But among engineers, that sentiment—that concrete can do so much more than we normally ask of it—is not new.  Case in point: the concrete canoe phenomenon.

The embedded video from the University of Illinois gives a great overview of concrete canoeing and its history, which began in 1971 with the first intercollegiate concrete canoe race between teams of civil engineers at UI and Purdue. It also touches on the two key engineering aspects of a successful concrete canoe team: the design of the concrete mix and the physical construction of the canoe itself. For specific details of the high-performance concretes developed for some of these events, check out Concrete Canoe Magazine, which has back issues chock full of technical articles available for free download once you fill out a short contact form. A number of concrete canoe casting time-lapse videos are posted on YouTube, and these give a good sense of how the boats themselves are put together. [Thanks, Jorge!]

Concrete Canoe | American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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