RIT Students Build Concrete Canoe for Regional Competition

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New lightweight design, "Flintstones" theme used for this year's craft

A modern Stone-Age family used rock to live in, eat from, sleep on, write on . . . and, well, for almost anything that a dinosaur couldn’t be used for.

So why not use it to build a canoe, too, and then use the occasion to dress up like characters from The Flintstones?

That’s exactly what a group of civil engineering technology students at Rochester Institute of Technology are thinking. They’ve built "RIT Rock," a concrete canoe, to race in regional competition, April 27–28, at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Then, if all goes according to plan, they’ll make their way in June to the 14th-annual National Concrete Canoe Competition in San Diego.

Ten team members, male and female, have worked on design and construction of their canoe since September. Concrete was poured in mid-March and the craft’s first water tests are slated to take place over the next week.

Jason Nabewaniec, fifth-year civil engineering technology major and the team’s co-captain, says this year’s canoe is lighter in weight than any of the previous six RIT concrete canoes—and about 50 pounds lighter than last year’s. That was accomplished by using an aggregate mixture of hollow molten-glass beads—or "micro balloons"—and by making the canoe only one-half inch thick and using minimal paint. The 16-foot-long craft weighs in at a svelte 102 pounds.

Competing against teams from 10 other school from across New York state, RIT will paddle in five races, two all-female and two all-male races and one co-ed race. Teams will be judged on race completion times, canoe design and presentations.

At the same event, another group of RIT civil engineering technology students will try to best its opponents in a steel bridge competition. Students will be judged on construction speed and structure strength.

Both contests are sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers. RIT hosted the regional competition in 1997 and won concrete-canoe regionals in 1997 and ’98.

A week from now, RIT concrete-canoe teammates, dressed like Fred and Wilma Flintstone and other characters from The Flintstones, anticipate exclaiming, "Yabba Dabba Doo!" at West Point. And, instead of tearing a page right out of history, they plan on making some.

Note: RIT’s Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety, in the College of Applied Science and Technology, offers undergraduate degrees in civil engineering technology, environmental management and technology, and safety technology; and certificates in industrial environmental management, environmental science, safety and health technology, and structure design. RIT’s civil engineering technology is one of only two in New York state.