Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Making concrete float

Posted by on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 1:38 PM

We all knew Air Force Academy cadets were the sharpest knives in the drawer, but who knew they could make concrete float?

But that's exactly what they'll do when the academy hosts the 2011 American Society of Civil Engineers Rocky Mountain Student Conference tomorrow through Saturday.

Cadets take their concrete canoe from the mold.
  • Cadets take their concrete canoe from the mold.

This year’s ASCE regional conference places almost 400 students, cadets, and faculty members from 16 different schools from the United States and Mexico in fun yet challenging events designed to broaden their perspective of civil engineering, and to allow students and cadets the opportunity to participate in “real life” projects and professional presentations, the academy said in a release.


This year’s conference will be filled with events and competitions including the concrete canoe design and racing, the concrete canoe swamp test, steel bridge construction in 90 minutes, can-structure design, technical and non-technical paper presentations, a pre-design competition, and a mystery design activity.

To catch the concrete canoe competition, be at Prospect Lake in Memorial Park at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

I was finding it hard to believe, so I asked AFA spokesman John Van Winkle. He says:

As for why it works, it's really a matter of displacement and buoyancy.

Any object placed into a liquid displaces a certain amount of the
liquid, and that displacement is countered by the density of the fluid
that it's placed in — in this case, water.

It's all a matter of what liquid you've got, specifically the density
and mass of the fluid — and design certainly plays a factor in this —
which is why we can float a steel battleship or aluminum fishing boat
just fine, but a solid brick placed in the water is bound for Davy
Jone's locker.

"The public is invited to watch the concrete canoe competitions, which coincidentally are scheduled for April Fool’s Day," the news release said.

All other events will take place on the Air Force Academy. The Air Force Academy hosts this regional engineering competition once every 10 years.

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