U canoe team rows to sixth-place finish

For the eleventh time in 13 years, IT students rowed away with

the first-place title in the regional round of the American Society

of Civil Engineers/Master Builders Concrete Canoe Competition.

The team, led by Jesse Struve (CE '01), went on to an impressive

sixth-place finish in the national competition in San Diego, where

24 teams competed for $9,000 in scholarship money.

Competition scores are based on a number of factors, including

the canoe's appearance and structural integrity, students' paddling

prowess, a display, and written and oral presentations on the canoe's

design. In previous years, contestants could use foam on the tips

of the canoe to provide floatation, but this year concrete had to

provide all the buoyancy.

According to Struve, that new design rule presented a number of

challenges. "We had to completely redevelop our concrete mix so

that the unit weight became lighter than water while maintaining

a certain strength goal," he says. "That was a lot of work."

The new mix was made up of a combination of portland cement, latex,

glass beads, chemical admixtures, and ceramic spheres. "We tested

over 30 new concrete mixes to get just the right combination," says

Struve. "It was a real challenge."

It took eight months for the students to design and build the 100-pound,

18-foot canoe, which they named Koukan.

Training was another challenge. An especially harsh winter kept

Minnesota lakes icy until two days before the regional competition,

which made it difficult to gauge how the boat would perform.

"With the ice on the lakes, we only had the Mississippi River to

practice on, and we could only practice two weeks before the regional,"

he says. "But our training was really focused, and our paddlers

did really well."

This year's sixth-place national finish is the team's best ever,

and Struve is confident that future competitions will bring even

greater success. "The team will continue to find new innovations

that set Minnesota apart from the rest of the competitors," he says.

"We'll just get better and better."