Up North: UMD Makes Waves, Rowing their Concrete Canoe to Nationals

Updated: June 20, 2019 10:07 PM

A group of engineers at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) created a unique concrete canoe that won them a bid to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2019 National Concrete Canoe Competition.

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For seven years engineers at UMD have constructed concrete canoes for competitions all around the country.

"This is the first trip UMD has made, this is our seventh canoe that we built so first trip in the first seven years that we've been a team," said team captain and recent UMD grad Karth Whiteside.

It takes from September to April to complete the canoe and weighs about 265 pounds in it's final form.

"It's made out of concrete, a specially designed mix that's lightweight. We use special aggregates and different stuff in there that makes it float like air bubbles," Whiteside said. 

Much of the canoe if also filled with styrofoam to assist in the flotation of the device. Once the product is close to completion, the team finds space to practice.

"We actually practice in the swimming pool here at UMD. It was a little bit too cold for us to go practice on the pond. Otherwise we would have taken the canoe out there and practiced on a much bigger space," commented team member and UMD senior Tucker Johnson.

Regional competitions begin in the spring. The competitions are judged on four categories; a technical paper, an oral presentation, the display of the canoe, and the race. Teams are allowed to alter their paper and presentation for nationals but not change any aspects of their canoe. To transport the canoe to competitions, the team attaches the canoe to a table and transports it in a trailer. 

For some extra flair, they design each canoe with a unique Minnesotan theme.

"The canoe's got tons of different constellations and stuff printed on it in the black background so it's a very Duluth Minnesota theme generally to like really bring across you know how much we enjoy it up here," said UMD senior team member Jacob Runge.

The team is consisted of students from a wide range of engineering backgrounds.

"This year is the first year we've had multidisciplinary people on the team mostly it's civil engineers because this is a civil engineering program but I'm a chemical engineer," Runge said.

This year, UMD took first place in the racing category at regionals, and placed 21st overall in nationals. For the final results of the 2019 National Concrete Canoe Competition click here.

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