Equipped with a wealth of new insights on design and construction – as well the national award for Team Spirit – members of the University of Kansas School of Engineering Concrete Canoe team are taking lessons learned from a national competition and working toward a return trip next year.
“It was a great experience, even if we didn’t fare as well as we would’ve liked on a competitive level,” said Billy Hirchert, senior in civil engineering and captain of the team. “We learned a lot for next year about what’s needed to take the next step and have a stronger showing at nationals.”
KU finished outside the top 10 in the American Society of Civil Engineer’s national concrete canoe competition, which was in June at the University of Pennsylvania-Johnstown. Students earned a trip to nationals after winning a regional competition in May at Oklahoma State University.
Hirchert said the national competition was a great chance to network and share ideas with fellow engineers from other schools. It also provided an opportunity to discuss aspects of the canoe that could improve the team’s performance in the future.
“We plan to change the entire design of the boat for next year. We plan to make a much thinner canoe, which will reduce our weight, since it was more than 200 pounds heavier than the lightest one there,” Hirchert said. “We’ll also reconfigure our hull design. The speed of the boat is ratio of length to width, and after seeing these other boats, we realized we need a longer and narrower design.”
In addition to picking up great lessons on design and construction, the Jayhawk team managed to bring home some hardware. KU earned the Spirit of the Competition Award. The team dealt with flight delays and cancelations en route to the competition, and also had a fender-bender with the trailer hauling the canoe – there were no injuries and only minor damage.
“We ran into just a lot of not awesome things on our way there. And between that and not having a strong showing competitively, we still kept a really great attitude, and the organizers recognized that,” Hirchert said. “We also gave a lot of support to one of the international universities (the University of Tongji, from Shanghai) who showed up with no way to transport their boat anywhere. We gave them a hand getting their boat from place to place and getting set up.”
KU returns a handful of experienced people for next year’s team, and Hirchert said they’ll need additional volunteers for all aspects of the project, including construction, mix design, structural analysis, casting and paddling to ensure they’re ready to make another run next year.
“We did the right things this year to get nationals. And that’s a great accomplishment,” Hirchert said. “For next year, we’re looking at better quality control on our boat, while maintaining the other things we’ve always been good at. We’ll be back and we’ll be even better.”