For the third year in a row, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo has won the National Concrete Canoe Competition.

Concrete canoes? If you think that sounds about as practical as a lead balloon, remember what the ancient Greek engineer Archimedes pointed out: a submerged object displaces an amount of water equal to its volume. Or something like that.

And if you don’t believe Archimedes, you have only to look at the impressive photos of young engineering students furiously paddling their cement boats on the website of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) website.

The ASCE is the official sponsor of the contest. To win it, students not only have to paddle faster and farther than the competition, but present the most elegant designs.

Cal Poly dominated the contest. And it’s worth mentioning that the last year when Cal Poly didn’t win, 2009, the title was taken by the University of California, Berkeley.

We Californians can really do the concrete canoe. Now wait till it comes to the castle-in-the-air contest.

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