The use of concrete in floating vessels is not new. In fact, this highly versatile construction material was used in 1848 when Joseph Louis Lambot built concrete boats for use on his estate in France. Some ASCE student chapters date their intramural concrete canoe races back to the 1960s. The University of Illinois-Urbana and the University of California-Berkeley both claim they held the first ASCE regional competitions in the early 1970s. In the 30 years since, the efforts of students combining engineering excellence and hydrodynamic design to construct water-worthy canoes have culminated in an advanced form of concrete construction and racing technique.
ASCE expanded its race endeavor to a national level in 1988 when Master Builders (now known as Degussa Admixtures, Inc.) offered to become the sole corporate sponsor of the collegiate event. In its first year, 18 teams of enthusiastic civil engineering students from the nation's premier academic programs gathered in East Lansing, Michigan to test the waters of this innovative and educational sporting event. Increasingly confident in their concrete entries, the regional winners have carted their canoes across the United States every year since in their quest to become national concrete canoe champions.
Each year a different school hosts the national competition. Hundreds of teams compete at the regional competitions to qualify for participation at the national level. Major sponsors underwrite the expenses for travel, meals and accommodations for the first-place winners of the regional competitions, as well as any teams who placed second in regional competitions in which the winner placed first through fifth in the previous year's national competition.
The objectives of the national competition are as follows:
- To provide civil engineering students an opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience and leadership skills by working with concrete mix designs and project management.
- To increase awareness of the value and benefits of ASCE membership among civil engineering students and faculty in order to foster lifelong membership and participation in the Society.
- To build awareness of the versatility and durability of concrete as a construction material among civil engineering students, educators and practitioners, as well as the general public.
- To build awareness of concrete technology and application among civil engineering students, educators and practitioners, as well as the general concrete industry.
- To increase awareness among industry leaders, opinion makers and the general public of civil engineering as a dynamic and innovative profession essential to society.
- To generate and increase awareness of all sponsoring companies commitment to civil engineering education among civil engineering students, educators and practitioners, as well as the general public.
Seventy-five percent of the total team score is based on engineering design and construction principles, the written report and oratory skills. The remainder is based on the performance of the canoe and the paddlers in five different race events: men's and women's slalom/endurance races, men's and women's sprint races and a co-ed sprint race.