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Texas A&M concrete canoe team to race at national competition - The Eagle: Local News

Texas A&M concrete canoe team to race at national competition

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Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 12:00 am

Ten members of the Texas A&M Civil Engineering Team will compete in the National Concrete Canoe Competition next week, paddling in a canoe they designed and built together.

The Aggieland team secured a place in the national competition after beating out several competitors at the Texas-Mexico regional competition in April at the University of Texas in Tyler, where they competed against major teams across the state, including The University of Texas, Texas Tech University and Sam Houston State University.

The 18-person team will have at least 10 members participate in the national competition June 19-21 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, which is the first time a team from Texas A&M has made it to nationals since 2006.

The team, which is made up of 17 civil engineering majors and one aerospace engineering major, spends the entire school year preparing for the competition. The group began researching and planning which concrete mixture to use to mold the canoe in August, and began to pour and build the canoe in January, said co-captain Allison Lenig.

The civil engineering major has competed on the team for three years, and initially joined because she was curious about the design of the canoe, she said.

"Everyone's initial reaction is, 'Well, does that even float?'" Lenig said. "It's kind of fun to be a part of something that really just baffles people."

The canoe is crafted from a lightweight concrete mix that uses hollow glass beads, rendering it much lighter than a traditional lightweight that is usually made of sand and rock, Lenig said. The team's lightweight mix weighs 68 pounds per cubic foot, while the traditional lightweight mix is 120 pounds.

At the beginning of every year, the civil engineering team researches the best concrete mixture to make the canoe float, so a new canoe with a new design is used each year, Lenig said.

This year's canoe is just shy of 20 feet, and it weighs roughly 320 pounds.

"The canoe itself has a narrow front, and it has a longer front portion than back portion so it will cut through the water and maneuver pretty well," Lenig said.

The canoe competition prepares civil engineering students to apply engineering principles in real world tasks, which are oftentimes different from what they learn inside of the classroom, said Alix McCoy, the second co-captain of the team.

"It's real engineering problem-solving; we have to come up with a design, manage a schedule, a budget, run into problems and figure out how to fix them," she said.

The national competition will involve four parts: submitting a technical paper, completing an oral presentation and presenting a display of the canoe, where the team will be judged on their artistic style. The last portion is five separate races spanning from short distances to tests of endurance.

Four of those races allow for two people inside of the canoe, while the last permits a team of four. Only 10 members can compete in the racing portion of the competition, but all 18 members contribute, Lenig said.

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