Concrete + Duct Tape = FSU Success

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Do you have the backbone to get into a canoe made out of concrete on Cheat Lake? How about racing that concrete canoe after it has just snapped in half and has been duct taped back together? Fairmont State’s ASCE Concrete Canoe team used their Backbone in more than one way to recently do just that.

On April 15, FSU’s ASCE Student Chapter won first place in the Concrete Canoe Competition for the eighth consecutive year at the Virginia’s Conference, hosted by West Virginia University at Cheat Lake in Morgantown. Despite FSU’s canoe, "Backbone", cracking in half during the morning men’s sprint race, the team was able to tape it back together using only duct-tape. After being patched, it raced three more times without taking on water. Although the team took a point penalty their Backbone proved victorious as the team secured first place.

"We are really proud of our canoe this year and despite the setbacks that we had, we are excited to be representing FSU at the national venue," said Team Captain, Tabitha Neuhauser.

The conference brings together 13 schools from West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and provides students a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience by competing in many engineering-related competitions.

"Teams are judged on four parts, each weighted equally," explained Neuhauser. "They include the canoe races, a technical paper, canoe aesthetics, and a five minute presentation highlighting the technical paper." The students must follow strict rules that dictate what their concrete matrix can consist of and, of course, the boat must float, to be eligible for the races.

ASCE faculty advisor, Tia Como, P.E., said that this year’s canoe theme is "Backbone", which honors our nation’s everyday heroes including teachers, coalminers, doctors, and firefighters. "This country’s everyday heroes are the backbone of our country and it is our honor to create this canoe and race it for them," explained Como.

Fairmont State currently holds the record for the most consecutive appearances at the national competition and remains the only university in the state to be invited to compete at the national level. With regional competitors including West Virginia University, Catholic University of America, and Virginia Tech, and national competitors including, Clemson University, Michigan State University and University of California, Berkeley, these records take backbone to have.

William Postlethwait ’05 of Rivesville was part of the program from the beginning and came back to town to cheer on the Falcons at this year’s regional competition. "As an alum, it is exciting to see that the tradition of success that we began is still going strong. These students put in a huge amount of extracurricular hours and having this history of success is something to be proud of."

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 137,500 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide, and is America’s oldest national engineering society. ASCE’s vision is to position engineers as global leaders building a better quality of life.


Over the weekend of June 16, the team competed in the 24th annual National Concrete Canoe Competition in Evansville, Ind. Competing against schools such as the University of Oklahoma, the University of Akron and University of California, Berkeley, FSU’s ASCE Student Chapter finished with an overall rank of 13th in the nation.

This year’s national championship was the eighth consecutive competition for FSU representing Region 4, which includes schools from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Indiana. FSU’s 2011 team beat several university records. The team finished ninth in the nation in the final product section, 10th in the nation in the design paper section and 11th in the nation on the oral presentation.

About this story: This story, written by Jessie Sharps, was featured in the Summer 2011 edition of maroon & white. Click here to view this edition. To request a paper copy contact Beth Martin at (304) 367-4009.