Cody Howard
School of Engineering

Concrete canoe team picks up steam for regional competition

Thu, 04/17/2014

LAWRENCE — The choppy waters and stiff breeze that persist at Lone Star Lake, 10 miles southwest of the University of Kansas campus, aren’t a typical laboratory setting. But for this year’s concrete canoe team at the School of Engineering, there’s no better place for research.

The team has spent hours on the water in a concrete canoe – honing their paddling and steering skills in hopes of perfecting theirtechnique as they prepare for this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Continent Conference Regional Concrete Canoe Competition April 24-26, in Stillwater, Okla., hosted by Oklahoma State University. The competition requires students to design and build a canoe using concrete as the primary material, then provide detailed presentation materials about the project as well as race against other teams in the canoe.

After narrowly missing a trip to the national competition last year (KU placed second; only the first place team advances), confidence is high for a stronger performance this year.

“We got first in presentation (last year), our design paper was solid, and our canoe looked great, but we had never been in the water with it until the competition,” said Jeremy Boger, a senior in civil engineering and concrete canoe team leader. “We have a paddling coach this year, and we’ve spent a lot of weekends at the lake practicing.”

Boger is in his third year on the team. He’s worked to improve continuity from year to year, including creation of a reusable canoe mold and a uniform filing system for information gathered by the team throughout the year. Establishing that foundation has meant more time this year for the 30 members of the team to practice paddling and focus on other structural improvements

“We’ve moved from this being a construction project which gave us an empirical understanding of a concrete canoe to more of an engineering project where we can really focus on improving the canoe and our overall performance,” Boger said.

“We’ve been able to do a significant amount of materials testing and try out different reinforcements. This process confirmed what we knew last year, but everything on this year’s canoe is better tested.”

Well aware of challenges on the water, the team has concentrated on ways to make a faster, more buoyant canoe.

“We’ve been able to spend a lot of time on the mixture of our concrete and are working on ways to make this year’s canoe lighter. We’ve been able to reduce the weight by about 15 percent,” Boger said. “The hydrostatic properties are good. It’s a good racing canoe, and we should be able to get more speed when we’re paddling.  All that practice certainly helps, too.”

With a first place finish at regionals, the KU team would advance to the Concrete Canoe nationals, set for June 19-21, at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, in Johnstown, Pa.

Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

World War I left a lasting impression on KU. The 2015 #KUcommonbook is sure to do the same:
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (, associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times