The Black Pearl, at 20 feet long, 3 feet wide and over 250 pounds, is a sleek and fast floating concrete canoe is the result of five months of nonstop work by the members of the American Society of Civil Engineers chapter at Florida Atlantic University.
Every year, civil engineering students from the chapter participate in the Southeast Student Conference, where they enter various competitions, including those related to the concrete canoe, for the opportunity to compete at the national conference.
This year, FAU's chapter has gotten a little closer to that goal, placing in the top 10 in six of the 16 competitions.
"We did really well, and the canoe had no cracks. It came back in the same condition that we brought it, so I was happy with that," says Cloyd Jack, the canoe captain.
To be able to go to the conference, chapter members had to make a big effort. Since all the work has to be done in their free time, that meant Jack spent his birthday, winter break and up to 40 hours a week working on the canoe.
Another challenge the chapter faces was the lack of funding. The president, Allie Kiever, said the group received help by visiting various companies and asking for extra materials that they could donate for the canoe.
"Companies usually try to help us out, especially if we write a thank you letter and put their logo in the back of our shirt or something like that," Kiever said.
This year, the students also received help from Victor Rosas, an FAU alumna, former canoe captain and ASCE chapter president. He helped with the entire process and helped to find funding, saying he viewed the conference as an opportunity to experience "the division between the school and the real world."
The canoe, which came back intact from the competition for the first time, was made using a special concrete mix that the students created. And for the first time, a CNC machine – and automated machine too -- was used to cut the mold.
The Black Pearl will be used by the ASCE students to practice rowing and help select members who will compete. Success in three challenges is required to compete in the national concrete canoe competition, including racing.
Jack has signed up again to be canoe captain, and he already is planning for next year.
"If we want to get FAU to its first nationals, we are going to have to make it as light as possible and as hydrodynamic as possible," Jack said.
For the 2012 conference, the work will start this summer. The group also will participate in another major competition -- one in which they must design, fabricate and construct a steel bridge.