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Written by Carter Colehower, Marketing Intern, ALP Supply

Concrete is not limited to the construction of buildings, bridges, or infrastructure. Concrete is a science, with different mixture types for different applications and projects, encompassing various mixture ingredients and techniques.

If constructing a concrete building is impressive, then imagine constructing a concrete canoe that defies popular belief and floats. This is the goal that engineering students have in mind when they take on the challenge of competing in the annual American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) National Concrete Canoe Competition. Students from universities all over North America disprove the notation that concrete cannot float, better yet, students prove they can race canoes made from concrete.

History of the competition

For the past 30 years, engineering students have gathered annually at the beginning of summer to compete in the National Concrete Canoe Competition. The venue of the competition varies year to year but this year Colorado School of Mines, located in Golden Colorado, had the honor of hosting the 2017 concrete canoe race. The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) was the main sponsor of the event. “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. Read more about NPCA’s coverage of the event here.

2017 results

On June 19, 2017, the team that best exemplified the spirit of engineering and won the canoe race was California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Winning the actual race is only one of four parts in the scoring process. What set aside Cal Poly’s canoe from the rest of their competition was their design paper, oral presentation, and quality of craftsmanship. Not only did Cal Poly’s canoe look aesthetically pleasing, but it was also engineered using superior products.


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

Impact of Nycon PVA fibers

To achieve this goal of improved flexural strength, Nycon PVA RMS702 fibers from ALP Supply sister company Nycon Corporation were added to the concrete solution. California Polytechnic was not the only team looking to improve strength without adding weight. In fact, eight out of the twenty teams that qualified for national finals used Nycon PVA fibers as a reinforcement additive.

The contribution of Nycon PVA fibers led to Cal Poly’s success, specifically due to less weight, flexibility, and superior strength of the concrete mixture. These PVA fibers allowed multiple teams to build a lighter, yet stronger, canoe that resists cracking while allowing 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.”

Over 4,500 man hours went into the development of the canoe as well as two practice models. The team opted out of using inferior products and focused on using only the best reinforcement fibers on the market.


About Nycon PVA Fibers

Nycon PVA fibers are unique in their ability to create a fully-engaged molecular bond with mortar and concrete that is 300% greater than other fibers. Nycon PVA RMS702 fibers are 5 denier, monofilament PVA fibers for use in fiber reinforced concrete and precast. This PVA concrete fiber is specifically designed for use in concrete products to control plastic shrinkage, thermal cracking and improve ductility and flexural strength. PVA utilizes the mixing activity to disperse the fibers into the mix. PVA provides a multi-dimensional fiber network that does not affect the curing process chemically. Nycon PVA fibers can be used in all types of concrete, and these fibers help the concrete at early stages, which is beneficial when stripping time and handling is important.

The versatility of concrete

The spirit of the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition is to build an understanding on the versatility of concrete. ALP Supply and Nycon Corporation are proud the Nycon PVA fibers were used in many of the canoes that made it to nationals. The lessons gained by participating in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition will have a lasting impact on students entering the construction industry. Participating students will enter the field with a competitive edge with the knowledge and appreciation of superior concrete products. They built 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.