July 2008

Racing for Recycling

Making the most of TVA’s by-products was a project Glynna Wilson launched with fellow University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students.


How do you move a 450-pound, 20-foot-long concrete canoe from Chattanooga to Orlando, Fla., for a race — without breaking it, or your back? That was just half the challenge for employee Glynna Wilson and her fellow senior engineering students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.


Glynna Wilson shows the materials used in the construction of the canoe.

“In our design class, our six-member team had to design, build and race a concrete canoe,” says Wilson, a civil design engineer at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. “When we researched materials, we decided to use fly ash from Cumberland Fossil Plant and cenospheres — a lightweight type of fly ash — for our canoe.”


From left, Mike Blessing, Adam Croft, Stuart Rymer and Nettie Halcomb paddle the canoe they helped design and build for the concrete canoe design competition and race this spring.

And the supply was readily available. “Our group manages the seven-million tons of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag and scrubber gypsum fossil-power generation produces each year,” says Mike Sutton, specialist in FPG’s Fuel By-Products & Marketing. “An important part of this management is the sale of by-products to be used in building materials such as ready-mix concrete, gypsum wall board, concrete blocks and roofing shingles. Sale of these products reduces the cost of disposal and generates revenue for TVA. The by-products group is always interested in innovative uses that could lead to increasing sales.”

And, in this case, in sponsoring the UTC team.

With Fossil Power Group’s Coal Combustion By-Products as sponsor, the UTC team, along with 17 other university teams, competed in the American Society of Civil Engineers national concrete canoe design competition and race in March. “This was the first time a UTC team has competed,” Wilson says. “We finished 10th in the women’s sprint and 11th in the man’s slalom. And the judges said they were surprised that we came up with such a unique design on our first trip. Our canoe design was different from all the other schools’ designs.”