Concrete canoe team gets third at Ohio competition

Princeton senior Tyler Williams examines his team’s canoe, made of concrete and weighing 205 pounds, on display in the Engineering and Biological Sciences Building on Wednesday. Last week, Williams and his team rowed against other colleges in Akron, Ohio, and placed third. WKU’s campus is “painted” on the inside of the canoe with stained concrete, and more than 1,500 hours of work was put into making it.

Taylor Harrison

A group of WKU engineering students made more than 100 concrete batches this year while working on their concrete canoe.

The work led to a trip last weekend to Akron, Ohio, for the Ohio Valley Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

WKU finished third in a four-part competition involving everything from canoe craftsmanship to racing on the lake.

Matt Dettman, the faculty adviser for the team, said there were about 15 teams at regionals this year.

“We haven’t won the regionals in the last couple years, but that’s the nature of competition,” Dettman said. “They definitely brought a product this year that was capable of winning. Had a couple of things gone our way in the competition, we would have.”

Dettman said the team’s canoe was first judged on craftsmanship and appearance. Then comes an exercise in technical writing before teams give a 5-7 minute oral presentation followed by questioning.

The final part is what Dettman referred to as “the best” — when students race their canoes.

There were five different races: men’s sprint, women’s sprint, men’s distance, women’s distance and a co-ed sprint.

Dettman said WKU barely had enough female members to participate in the women’s events.

Not all the team members get to participate in paddling the canoe. The team practiced, and those who wanted to paddle tried out. Those who were the best and worked well together were chosen.

Berea senior Cory Jones is the team’s co-captain and has been on the team for four years.

“I kind of knew the process,” Jones said. “I just put a lot of time into it with everybody else, and we made an outstanding product.”

WKU had been preparing for the trip for months.

They design the canoe around a set of rules issued at the beginning of the year.

“Once those rules come out, the students go about designing the canoe,” Dettman said. “They design the concrete mix, they design how it’s going to be reinforced, they design how it’s going to be built and then they build it.”

While the students work on this project as part of a course, the canoe is put together on the students’ own time. Dettman said the process involves many nights and weekends.

Princeton senior Tyler Williams is the team’s captain. Williams said his responsibility was “pretty much managing the entire project from start to finish.”

He also said he had to make sure his team members were fulfilling their respective roles and getting everything completed.

Kendall McClenny, a junior from Winter Springs, Fla., said the entire experience was “awesome.”

“I loved it,” she said. “It was different. It’s an adventure.”