Local high school first to enter college concrete canoe contest

Nov 1, 2021

Alex Evanow
Credit Alex Evanow

Local students are gearing up to become the first high school team ever to compete in the American Society of Civil Engineers's college-level competition.  They'll have to float a concrete canoe.  Randi B. Hagi reports.

The society's regional conference has a newcomer to their Concrete Canoe Competition -- The Miller School of Albemarle, which will be the first high school in the country to enter. Their task is to design, build, and row a 16-foot canoe made entirely out of concrete. They'll be up against teams including UVa and Marshall University.

ALEX EVANOW: They're probably going to pull people from official rowing teams … so we don't anticipate to win that, but we think we'll do very well in the other ones -- presentation, discussion, and … the display of the canoe.

Team captain Alex Evanow plans to go into aerospace or mechanical engineering. He and his teammates already successfully made an eight-foot concrete canoe last year, which qualified them to enter the contest.

EVANOW: And when our canoe actually floated in our lake on campus, I didn't know what to say!

Ryan Henry
Credit Ryan Henry

There are 20 students on the team, broken into groups focused on the concrete mixture, hull design, artistic design, construction, and paddling. They're working under the tutelage of Ryan Henry, director of the school's applied engineering program, who made a concrete canoe himself while in college.

RYAN HENRY: There's really no limit to how much design and analysis and testing that you can do. And so which one is the hardest, the answer is really, is which one do you want to put the most work into? For example, mix design -- there's no limit to the number of different mixes. How much cement? How much water? … How much fiber? You know, what size aggregate?

The Miller students will take the helm in April at the Virginia Military Institute.