In 1971 The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University competed in the first intercollegiate concrete canoe race. “Clyde Kesler of the University of Illinois gets credit for starting the whole thing, by having his civil engineering students build a ferro cement canoe in 1970. Purdue students learned about it, built their own canoe, and challenged Illinois to a race. That’s how it all got started … but spontaneous enthusiasm has caused the idea to mushroom all across the country.” (1973 race report, MS 275, box 3, folder 3). These events continue today as the National Concrete Canoe Championship hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The concrete canoe race is a way for engineering students to work with concrete, practice fluid analysis, use design software, and work in a team. Iowa State University was not present at the 1973 competition pictured here, but the ASCE Iowa State Student Chapter does have an active concrete canoe team.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of concrete canoe racing, stop by the Special Collections and University Archives Department to examine the other materials in the Mary Krumboltz Hurd Papers (MS 275). Hurd was an Iowa State University alumna (BS Engineering 1947), consultant, writer, and staff engineer for the American Concrete Institute. This collection, part of our Archives of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), documents Hurd’s involvement in setting up the races and has many other photographs of concrete canoe racing in the early 1970s.