The Vanderbilt Concrete Canoe Design Project: The Little Engine that Canoed


Concrete Canoe

How to Cite

Schmitt, S. B. (2006). The Vanderbilt Concrete Canoe Design Project: The Little Engine that Canoed. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 2.


The Vanderbilt Concrete Canoe (VCC) Team has a competitive history at the Southeastern Regional ASCE Conference, placing in the top five schools throughout the past three years. The most recent concrete canoe project was named The Little Engine That Canoed in 2006 to honor Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s origins in the railroad industry and as a reminder of the power of persistence. Developing The Little Engine was a small portion of the overall project objectives. The design team first compiled a significant body of literature that systematically outlined the steps for a successful concrete canoe project. The Little Engine boasts a fresh hull, three-dimensional finite element analysis, and an optimized concrete composite. The canoe construction efforts yielded a female mold, canoe carrier, and stands. Team members found the process of modeling the V-shaped bow and stern sections and a rounded stern stem to be the most challenging obstacles. Three-dimensional analysis was performed for the first time in school history and provided insight into graduate level coursework. Similarly, designing a concrete composite to withstand the rigors of competition required the use of a polymer to replace water in the concrete mix. To reach new heights, the team utilized a functional breakdown structure. Teamwork and communication, in the face of limited manpower, resulted in performing over 800 man-hours of concrete canoe related activities during a two-year period.