If I were to ask you to close your eyes and imagine a team of students paddling a canoe, you’d probably imagine them paddling a canoe made from wood, fiberglass, or maybe even aluminum. Most people wouldn’t close their eyes and imagine a team of students paddling a concrete canoe down the river. That is exactly what will be happening this April at the Ohio Valley Student Conference (OVSC) regional competition.
Scholars in engineering programs across the nation can compete in a competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The competition has several different elements including: surveying, a concrete bat, the steel bridge, a balsa wood bridge, and the concrete canoe competition.
WKU’s Civil Engineering Program will be participating in this competition this year. Student participation in this competition is actually part of the curriculum for seniors in the Civil Engineering program, but several underclassmen also participate.
Emily Mesker, an Honors College senior from Hiseville, Ky. is the team’s Co-Captain. Mesker explained this year’s canoe is much different than past years and has presented new challenges to the group. The competition rules allowed teams to use a different shape so they decided to design their own shape and form. This year’s canoe has a narrower hull (the main part of the canoe, the bottom, and sides), which will hopefully increase paddling speed. This year’s boat will also be stronger than last year, but it will also have a low density.
Aaron Dockery, also an Honors College senior from Somerset, Ky and the team’s captain explained that the unit weight of the concrete is vital when it comes to flotation. The addition of Styrofoam helps with flotation. Upon graduation, Dockery plans to begin working with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as an engineer in training.
Mesker explained that each year the team chooses a theme for their canoe. This year, the canoe will honor their teammate Robby Boarman, a senior here at WKU who has stage 4 cancer but is still a full time student at WKU all the while undergoing intensive treatment. “In order to bring awareness to all cancer and to support him in his fight and his brave choice to continue his life here at school, we have called the canoe Courageous.” Mesker said.
This team of civil engineering students and Courageous will travel to Cleveland, Ohio the first week in April to compete in the Ohio Valley Student Conference (OVSC). The winner of the canoe competition is based on the results of the male, female, and co-ed sprint and endurance races. The team will also give a presentation about their canoe. If victorious, the students will continue on to the national competition.