Concrete Canoe Competition | Golden, CO

Concrete Canoe Competition | Golden, CO

Concrete is a science, with different mixture types for different applications, encompassing many ingredients and techniques.

If constructing a concrete building is impressive, then imagine building a concrete canoe that floats.

This is the goal engineering students take on in the annual American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Concrete Canoe Competition. Students from North American universities prove that concrete can float and they can race canoes made from concrete.

History of the Concrete Canoe

For 30 years, engineering students have gathered each year to compete in the National Concrete Canoe Competition. The venue varies every year and on June 19, Colorado School of Mines hosted the 2017 concrete canoe race. The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) was the primary sponsor. “Many of the students have very little exposure to precast concrete during their college classes, so having the opportunity to meet with them face to face allows us to fill in the missing pieces of what they learn in materials and structures analysis classes in college,” said Marti Harrell, executive director of the NPCA Foundation.  NPCA’s coverage of the event can be found here. 

2017 Competition Results

This year the team that won the competition was California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Winning the race is only one of four factors in the scoring process. Cal Poly’s canoe won on the strength of their race results combined with their design paper, oral presentation, and the quality of the canoe itself. Cal Poly’s canoe possessed high aesthetics and was also engineered using industry-leading products.

Cal Poly’s project manager, Ian Buchanan, said the team set out to “improve the flexural strength of the concrete by testing new reinforcement schemes.”

NYCON PVA Fibers in the Top Concrete Canoes

To achieve their objective of improved flexural strength, NYCON PVA RMS702 fibers from NYCON Corporation were added to the concrete. California Polytechnic was one of eight out of the twenty teams that qualified for national finals using NYCON PVA fibers for reinforcement for their canoes; seeking to increase strength without adding weight.

NYCON PVA fibers led to Cal Poly’s winning entry. This was due to less weight and a high flexural strength of the concrete mixture. The PVA fibers allowed multiple teams to build a lighter, and stronger canoe that resisted cracking and provided for a malleable shape.

Cal Poly specifically stated in their design paper that “[NYCON] 6 mm PVA fibers, assisted in reducing micro-cracking and increasing the durability of the canoe.” 

More than 4,500 man hours went into the building of their competition canoe as well as two models used for practice. The Cal Poly team did not cut costs by using inferior products and focused on using only the best PVA fibers for the concrete market.

Why NYCON PVA Fibers are Unique

NYCON PVA fibers are unique due to their process of developing a fully-engaged molecular bond with mortar and concrete that is 300% higher than what other fibers provide. The NYCON PVA RMS702 fibers used in Cal Poly’s canoe were sized 5 denier, monofilament fibers intended for in fiber reinforced concrete and precast products. This PVA concrete fiber is designed to control plastic shrinkage, thermal cracking and improve ductility and flexural strength in precast concrete. PVA provides multi-dimensional fiber reinforcement that does not chemically impact the curing process. NYCON PVA fibers can be used in all types of concrete and help at early green stages, which is beneficial when stripping time and handling is important.

Spirit of the Competition

The objective of the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition is for engineering students to gain a deeper appreciation of the versatility of concrete. NYCON is proud our PVA fibers were used in many of the canoes. The lessons gained by students participating in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition will have a lasting impact on those entering the construction markets. Graduates will possess an understanding of how to develop a truly unique project while using a superior product, such as NYCON fibers.

All photos:, 303-880-8063, ©Barry Staver.