UF Concrete Canoe Team Off to Utah for Nationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla (June 12, 2024) — The University of Florida’s Concrete Canoe team hopes to hang another championship canoe in The Pit.

The team of 12 students will compete this month in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Engineering Championships at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. If they take home the title, their 2024 competition canoe, Springseeker, will be hung on The Pit’s ceiling of honor in Weil Hall with two other UF other champions: Foreverglades (2015) and the Tom Petty-themed Free Floatin’ (2019).

The team won a third national title with their canoe design in the ASCE virtual competition in 2021; there was no physical competition that year due to COVID, thus Polligator remained a design – nothing to hang from the ceiling of honor but a championship all the same.

The team is hoping Springseeker will be the next national champion.

“I think we have a solid shot at the top 5,” said the team’s co-project manager, Sydney Sutherland, a recent civil engineering graduate who secured a job with Kimley-Horn. This is her second year with the concrete canoe program, and she said the team’s greatest strengths are its bonds and ability to work together.

Sutherland’s co-project manager this year is Abigail Fronk.

“We’re kind of a family,” Sutherland told WUFT after success at regionals in 2023. “It makes me happy to see us succeed and see everybody get so excited about a concrete canoe. It brings us all together.”

The team’s faculty advisors agree, noting the concrete canoe program is much more than designing and racing. The best lessons and takeaways are from project management, presentations and teamwork.

“They have a great team, positive attitude, and a genuine interest in learning and becoming well-rounded engineers. The team has very high expectations,” said Taylor Rawlinson, Ph.D., the team’s laboratory manager with faculty advisor Robert Thieke, Ph.D.

The team starts planning and designing just days after nationals each year. The students construct canoes in The Pit, a large industrial space in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s Weil Hall. They then test the canoes at Lake Wauburg, the UF recreation area in south Gainesville.

The canoes are made from thin layers of concrete and carbon fiber. The team must balance the weight of construction materials with performance in the water and turning agility. “We test the limits of the materials,” Rawlinson said.

The competition is broken into three days: Display, Race and Presentation. In the race, paddlers work for speed in the sprints and navigate turns; some hull shapes provide better straight-line speed but do not turn quickly, while a very maneuverable canoe will often be difficult to paddle past in a straight line.”

Known as America’s Cup of Civil Engineering, the ASCE competition combines precise engineering, hydrodynamic design and racing technique.

America’s Cup also hosts several other engineering events, but the concrete canoes are the flagship competitions.

UF team members heading to Utah are Sutherland, Fronk, Payton Carter, Margaret Deaderick, Luke Gutierrez, Brennan Kade, Aiden Kittelson, Taylor Nestel, Thomas Raffenberg, Keegan Wittke, Alicia Demicco and Maya Patel.


By Dave Schlenker

Related: UF Steel Bridge Team Makes History https://www.essie.ufl.edu/2024-steel-bridge/