Posts Tagged ‘Concrete Canoe Competition’

National Concrete Canoe Competition and the Wonders of Concrete


By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William S. Parker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Jarek Tuszynski [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons











If you have ever suggested that someone’s idea was going to sink like a concrete canoe, hold on a minute; college students participating in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition would beg to differ with that simile. Every year since 1988, the American Society of Civil Engineers has held the national event, which grew from smaller competitions started in the 1960s. There is also a Canadian version of the competition and a less-scientific contest in Germany. The teams get hands-on experience in design, engineering and materials science, learning to enhance a material that has been in use for thousands of years. The 2014 event runs June 18-22. See the link above to read about the competition and to see pictures from previous years.

Roman Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome

Concrete has a long history, with versions of it going as far back as 6500 BC in Syria, but the Romans took concrete construction to great new levels. Possibly their most famous concrete structure is the dome of the Pantheon, which, at 142 feet in diameter, is the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built.

Basic concrete is made up of only a few ingredients: Portland cement, aggregate (rocks and sand) and water. The cement, which is made by heating limestone, reacts chemically with the water to make a binder that becomes hard as it cures. The aggregate provides strength, as does steel or materials that are often embedded in the concrete. For an in-depth technical discussion of the science, see this University of Illinois site, available in eLibrary: Scientific Principles of Concrete. High-tech versions have additives to increase strength and flexibility to allow them to be used in a wide range of applications.

Besides being used in common places like sidewalks, highways and even countertops, concrete is the material used to create some of the largest structures in the world, including the Three Gorges Dam in China, Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the Hoover Dam in the U.S.

The study of concrete can provide insight into various subject areas, including history, chemistry, engineering and materials science. See the links above and below and search and browse in eLibrary and to discover lots of great stuff for your research project or for use in your classroom.

Research Topics:

Civil Engineer
Materials Science

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