From a distance, the event being held in Montreal's Olympic Basin today may have looked like an ordinary canoe race. But the canoes these competitors were using were far from ordinary. In fact, the competitors themselves were not your typical paddlers. They were civil engineering students from across the United States and Canada, and the canoes they were racing were made of concrete.

With equal parts technical skill, creativity and determination, the University of Nevada, Reno has captured their first ever national Concrete Canoe title today at the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) 21st Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition. Their 19.5-foot-long, 160-pound, white canoe with blue and silver stain defeated entries from top engineering schools from across the country, and ended the University of Wisconsin - Madison's five- year winning streak. The win marks the end of three days of fierce competition and more than a year's worth of blood, sweat and tears for the team, in their bid to capture the 'America's Cup of Civil Engineering'.

"Over the past three days, these intrepid civil engineering students have shown that technical skills combined with an innate sense of creativity can turn a seemingly impossible task into a reality," says ASCE president David G. Mongan, PE, F.ASCE. "With the innovative thinking we've seen in Montreal, I can't wait to see what's to come from these students in the future as they begin their professional careers."

The team's closest competitors were the University of California, Berkeley and host school, Ecole de technologie superieure. The University of California, Berkeley paddled into second place with the gray, black and red, 229-pound, 19.92-foot-long VoCal, a tribute to the 'Free Speech Movement' and the Ecole de technologie superieure finished a close third with the gray, green and black, 170-pound, 20-foot-long Toutatis, a Celtic tribute. For their top finishes, the University of Nevada, Reno, the University of California, Berkeley and Ecole de technologie superieure earned $5000, $2500 and $1500 in scholarship money, respectively.

The 2008 ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition teams in order of final rank are:

  • 1) University of Nevada, Reno
  • 2) University of California, Berkeley
  • 3) École de technologie supérieure
  • 4) California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • 5) University of Florida
  • 6) University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • 7) Clemson University
  • 8) Michigan Technological University
  • 9) University of California, Los Angeles
  • 10) University of Wisconsin - Platteville
  • 11) Polytechnic University
  • 12) Drexel University
  • 13) Florida Institute of Technology
  • 14) University of Houston
  • 15) Youngstown State University
  • 16) The University of Maine
  • 17) University of Washington
  • 18) United States Air Force Academy
  • 19) Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • 20) Fairmont State University
  • 21) Louisiana Tech University
  • 22) Milwaukee School of Engineering

The races, both endurance and sprint combined, counted for only 25% of the teams' overall score. The remaining 75% was based equally on a technical design paper that highlighted the planning, development, testing and construction of the team's canoe; a formal oral presentation, in which the team had to detail their canoe's design, construction, racing ability and other innovative features, as well as defend their choices to the judges during a question and answer session; and the end product, the final racing canoe and project display, which were scored on aesthetics and visual presentation.

Special awards were also given to three teams. The University of Wisconsin - Madison received the R. John Craig Memorial Award, given to the school that best exemplifies the spirit and cooperative ideals of the competition by placing first in the co-ed sprint race; Drexel University was honored with the Tony P. Chrest Innovation Award, given in recognition of a team's superior and creative use of technology and materials in the construction of their canoe; and the University of Florida was awarded the American Concrete Institute Excellence in Concrete Canoe Design Award, given to recognize use of basic design principles for unconventional applications.

The three-day event, organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers and hosted by the Ecole de technologie superieure, was made possible by the support of the American Concrete Institute; Baker Concrete Construction; BASF - The Chemical Co.; Bentley Systems Inc.; the Construction Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Holcim (US) Inc.; ICS Penetron; Kiewit; and U.S. Silica Co.

For more information on the National Concrete Canoe Competition, including downloadable high-resolution photos, please visit www.concretecanoe.asce.org.

The National Concrete Canoe Competition is organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers and is funded by the generous support of the American Concrete Institute; Baker Concrete Construction; BASF - The Chemical Co.; Bentley Systems, Inc.; the Construction Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Holcim (US) Inc.; ICS Penetron; Kiewit; and U.S. Silica Co.. This year's event is hosted by Ecole de technologie superieure.