A new ingredient is proving to make it much smoother sailing this year for University of Kansas School Engineering students participating in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) concrete canoe competition.
For the first time in several years, a core group of students with experience from previous competitions returns to the team. Co-captain Jeremy Boger, a junior in civil engineering from Asheville, N.C., and a member of last year’s team, said this critical new element of continuity has made the entire process much easier.
“Last year, we had to completely reinvent the wheel every step of the way. I’d never even seen a picture of a concrete canoe. When we started (early in the second semester), I don’t think we realized what we were getting into, so we nearly killed ourselves getting it done,” Boger said. “Now, we’re light years ahead of where we were in 2012. The canoe looks great, and we’re right on schedule with everything.”
The ASCE Mid-Continent Conference Concrete Canoe competition is set for April 4-6 on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Ill. Ten teams design and build canoes primarily out of specialized concrete that are then put to a variety of tests including several races. The top team advances to the national competition in June in at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Ill.
Boger and two additional captains, Caitlin Perry, of Henderson, Nev., and Troy Sallee, of Lawrence, both seniors in civil engineering, were selected in September to share leadership duties and delegate responsibilities among the 23 students involved with this year’s team. To prevent teams from using the design each year, ASCE changes some of the requirements for the competition. The major change this year could prove to be a quite a test for KU.
“They’ve changed the race structure and format. Several of them have a slalom portion, which will be a big challenge. The idea is to design a canoe that is great with tracking and highly maneuverable,” Perry said. “Last year, no one on the team had any practice paddling until an hour before the competition. This year, our canoe is far enough along that we should have no problem getting in some practice, if the weather would just cooperate. If we can do that, I really feel we have a decent shot at making it to nationals.”
While the focus remains on this year’s goal of placing high in regionals and earning a trip to nationals, team leaders are working with an eye to the future. They’re looking to mentor underclassmen so there is more continuity from year to year.
“Next year, when I’m recruiting underclassmen for the canoe team, I’ll tell them … they should get their hands dirty. Design something and build it. Through this experience, they’ll be that much more prepared for whatever career they want in civil engineering,” Boger said.
The value of participation can’t be understated, Perry added.
“I’ve done a fair amount of student organizations, and something like this is the most involved you’ll feel and the best overall learning experience in terms of applying what you’ve learned. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true,” Perry said.