Vol. 17, No. 30May 7, 1998

Concrete canoe makes splash at regional race

Some of the team members with Sea Biscuit, their concrete creation, include (standing, from left) Ed Starr and Rob Harbeson; and (kneeling) Rob Schimmeler, Joy Ressler, Dan Feinblum, Scrappy and faculty adviser Kevin Folliard.
In academic contests or on the playing fields, UD students bring credit to their alma mater, even in unusual events such as the annual Concrete Canoe Competition.

The UD team, composed of members of the student chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), ranked third place overall and came home with four trophies from this year's regional competition, sponsored by ASCE. Held April 18 on Peace Valley Lake, near Doylestown, Pa., the regatta featured men's races, women's races, coed races and a faculty race, ranging from sprints to obstacle courses.

"Although Drexel came in first and Penn State second, as they have for several years, we made a much better showing than in other years and definitely offered them strong competition," adviser Kevin Folliard, civil engineering, said. Other schools competing were the University of Pittsburgh and Bucknell and Temple universities.

The UD women's team received two trophies for third place in two races, coming in fast on the paddles and a scant 10 seconds later than the second-place winners.

The fourth trophy went to Folliard for second place in the faculty race. Never mind, he said, that only two canoes competed, it was the participation that counted, and the second place trophy was the biggest of all. As is tradition with racing sculls, honorary coxswain Folliard was dunked in the lake at the conclusion of the races by the enthusiastic team.

The most important factors of the contest are manufacturing the canoe and developing a lightweight concrete, fiber-reinforced mixture (including Kevlar(TM), Spectra(TM) and nylon), Folliard said. Since January, students have been experimenting with different batches before coming up with the right mix.

They made a fiberglass mold using a traditional canoe. Through a method called scrimping-a process by which epoxy resin is sucked through a mold by means of a pressure vacuum-they poured in the concrete, reinforcing it with wire mesh and carbon fibers and using foam bulkheads. The mold was removed and revealed a traditional-looking canoe (but made of concrete), more than 18 feet long and ready for racing.

Last year's boat weighed over 400 pounds and was referred to as "the battleship" by the opposition, but this year's entry, Sea Biscuit, named after a racing nag in an old Three Stooges movie, was shaved down to a sleek 170 pounds.

The students agreed the concrete canoe was a winning project in more than one way. "It was a hands-on learning experience, and under and upper classmen worked together. We not only learned about design and manufacturing but about cost analysis and management," Robert Harbeson, chapter co-president, EG '98, said.

"The experience united the team. We were the most enthusiastic group there and were very excited to be in third place," he added.

"The competition was a good learning and working experience," Folliard said. "We are especially indebted to Hardcore DuPont, which let us use their facilities and equipment. Built Form, Fiberline and Chili's restaurant also supported us. We are looking forward to next year, and having secured the bronze, we are going for the gold," he added.

Other team members were Dan Bartlett, Meagan Coar, Damon Drummond, Dan Feinblum, Beth Kenderdine, Jason Kyler, Alyson Radel, Joy Ressler, Rob Schimmel, Ed Starr and Gary Wenczel.

The ASCE student chapter is selling Sea Biscuit T-shirts to offset the canoe-building expenses. Anyone wishing to order one may contact Ressler at 369-6476.

Sue Swyers Moncure
Photo by Jack Buxbaum