Concrete canoe team ties its best-ever finish at national competition

Photo courtesy of Matthew Dettman. 

John Reecer

In last week’s 2016 National Concrete Canoe National Competition, WKU civil engineering students finished fourth overall, which tied the team’s best ever finish in the competition. WKU also finished fourth in 2002 and 2007.

In the competition, there was an estimated 22 schools that participated, with some coming from outside of the country.

WKU’s canoe, which was named Bar-B-Qrete, finished third in oral presentation, third in design paper, fifth in final product and ninth in race points during the competition at the University of Texas at Tyler.

The overall top five finishers were École de technologie supérieure, Montreal; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Nevada, Reno; WKU; and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I cannot say enough about this team,” said Matthew Dettman, WKU concrete canoe team faculty advisor. “Not only did we build an outstanding canoe this year, we built a group of fine young engineers that WKU can be proud of.”

WKU won the Ohio Valley Student Conference in April to advance to its second straight national competition and its 15th overall. WKU finished 17th in the 2015 national competition.

Dettman said that this year the team used a new type of concrete that had never been used before in the competition called fly ash.

“The canoe has to be made out of concrete and normally that’s made with Portland cement,” Dettman said. “We used a new mix, which is made with fly ash, which is of course a more sustainable material. We were going for a sustainable design. The problem was we have never done that before and there’s only been a couple of team’s that have ever done that before.”

WKU participants in the competition included co-captains Kayla Frye of Nancy and David Miller of Louisville; Taylor Bowling of London; Jared Claiborne of Scottsville; Sean McCarty of Campbellsville; Jonathan Turner of Paducah; Trey Baston of Tompkinsville; Elizabeth Cardwell of Russellville; Mohammed Alajmi of Kuwait City, Kuwait; Tyler Baker of Lawrenceburg; Zach Thorpe of Cadiz; Caitlin Brown of Hartford; Megan Jones of Glasgow; Rachael Wilson of Elkton; and faculty advisors Matthew Dettman and Jason Wilson.

“It was a very fun competition,” Baker said. “We actually came in with the lowest budget we have ever had and we came in under budget of our actual budget. We were shooting for 10th place, and when we got there it kind of all fell into place. It was a fun competition. There were a lot of other schools that had really impressive boats. We were happy about how it all turned out.”

Dettman described Baker as one of the leaders of the team as Baker was the “heart and soul of the canoe research and design process.”

“As the concrete canoe team advisor for 24 years now, each team faces its own unique set of challenges over the course of the year designing and building their canoe,” Dettman said. “This year, it seemed the team had to overcome more obstacles than any other I’ve coached and time and time again they overcame adversity and just got stronger as a team.”