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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

URI concrete canoe team wins eighth
consecutive regional championship

Students prepare for national competition in June

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 8, 2002 -- Despite rule changes that resulted in the addition of 50 pounds to the weight of their canoe, University of Rhode Island civil engineering students paddled their way to their eighth consecutive New England regional concrete canoe championship, held this year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

URI competed against engineering schools throughout New England to win a spot in the national competition at Drexel University in Philadelphia June 20 through 23. The University of Maine and UMass placed second and third respectively. The event is sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Master Builders, Inc.

Teams were rated based on their performance in eight different categories -- five races, a technical paper, an oral presentation, and the canoe’s physical appearance.

"It was much harder to prepare for this year’s competition than in past years," said Karey Long of Stratham, N.H., the team’s co-captain. "There were a lot of changes to the rules this year, including changes in the concrete mix, changes to the format of the technical paper, and we weren’t allowed to paint it. They even eliminated entirely the display booth that teams had to create, and that was an area that we’ve always done well in."

The students began to design the canoe last fall, with construction starting in January. The first step was construction of a foam mold over which layers of concrete were poured.

According to Elizabeth Andrade of North Kingstown, who headed up development of the team’s concrete mix, the outer layers of the canoe consist of a "heavy mix" of concrete for stability, while the inner layers are a "light mix" designed to reduce the weight of the canoe. Both the heavy and light mix are made up of different ratios of cement, sand, ecospheres (glass microballoons used in place of sand to reduce weight and add buoyancy), latex, fly ash and water. Between each layer is a reinforcing mesh of geotextile material that increased the tensile strength of the boat. The completed canoe is nearly 22 feet long and weighs 194 pounds.

Despite the rule changes, the URI team placed first in three of the five races and took second and third in the other two races. They also placed first in the technical paper and oral presentation.

"One key to our success in the races is that the hull of our canoe is asymmetrical," explained Cranston resident Joe Baker, president of the URI chapter of the civil engineering society and project manager for the canoe construction project. "The widest part of the boat is toward the back, which allows it to cut through the water faster."

The team named their canoe Oceans 11, after the casino heist film, and used the movie theme in their oral presentation. "We saw at the nationals last year that the best scoring teams did skits instead of straight presentations," Baker said. "So our skit was about how we were going to ‘steal the competition.’ I played the George Clooney role, and Karey took the Brad Pitt role." Additional team members took on the roles of other characters in the film.

As the team prepares for the national competition, the members are feeling more optimistic than they have in past years. "We have an advantage in the regional competition every year because we’ve been to the nationals and seen all the best teams," said Baker. "I think that our presentation this year is of national caliber, and some of our racing times are comparable to the best times at nationals. So I think we can finish in the top 15 (out of 50) this year."

Long, who also served as fundraising chair, said that one disadvantage the URI team will face at nationals is funding. "We’ve got a small program with fewer students than at other engineering schools, and our budget is tiny compared to them," she said, noting that the team has raised money from local engineering firms, URI, and the state chapter of the civil engineering society, and by holding car washes and other events.

While construction of a concrete canoe may not at first seem to provide students with practical knowledge, Baker disagrees. "In our senior design class, it’s clear to see that the canoe project has real life applications, including things like understanding the construction management process, doing the actual engineering work, and meeting important deadlines."

In addition to Long, Andrade and Baker, team members are: co-captain Paul Jacques of Warwick, Jason Clough of Bradford, Vt., Jennifer Perry of Johnston, Sarah Wood of Cumberland, Kate Sheil of Lindenhurst, N.Y., Jason Lavoie of Assonet, Mass., Ryan Brouillette of Smithfield, Ines Walthier of Germany, and Christopher Cummiskey, Anthony Pastore, and Dara Swanson, all of North Kingstown.

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