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National Concrete Canoe Competition Comes to Tuscaloosa

"Are you talkin' to us?"

Concrete, it might surprise you to learn, is the most used building material on Earth. Enough of the stuff is produced each year to provide every man, woman and child on the planet more than a full cubic meter worth. It's also a heck of a lot more versatile than you would expect and can be used to construct a variety of unlikely products - like, say, canoes.

The University of Alabama is hosting the finals of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 22nd Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition this week. The initial weigh in and critical "float test" will be held on The Quad between 7 and 11 a.m. tomorrow and the actual races will be held Saturday at Lake Nichol from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The competition is considered the "America’s Cup of Civil Engineering" with technical expertise playing as large a role in the success of a team's entry as physical prowess on the water. In fact, the canoe competition is less a question of making a vessel that is seaworthy than maximizing the properties of the material to create the fastest craft possible.

The University of Nevada, Reno will be trying to repeat as champions against a field of 22 teams who have advanced from regional semi-final contests held during the spring. The honor of the State of Alabama will be upheld by the engineers from UA Huntsville who have no less than five championships under their belt (although the last was in 2001). This year Team UAH has built a 20-foot-long canoe dubbed "ITZ Civilized" (it’s an engineering thing) that weighs in right at 217 pounds. They spoke to The Huntsville Times this week about their hopes for the competition.

Curious? A few YouTube vids from last year's competition after the jump: