Concrete Canoe build team gears up for competition

A floating concrete canoe might seem like a paradox, but members of the UBC Concrete Canoe team assure that, “yes, it floats!” 

Now in its third year, the team is in the middle of constructing a sleek and lightweight concrete canoe that is less dense than water. Their goal is to design a strong and maneuverable vessel that can hold its own as the team represents UBC in competition later this year.

So how do you get concrete to float on water? 

The process spans the entire school year. The mix design team tests different concrete mixes throughout the year to achieve the perfect combination. Materials like fly ash and super plasticizer make the concrete soft and recycled fibreglass makes it lighter. The balancing act between these different properties can lead to the ideal canoe, said mix design lead Jamiu Abdsalami. 

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UBC Concrete Canoe

There is also the hull to consider as well as the race itself. Teams will be judged on a combination of factors. First, they must suit up for a formal presentation where they are critiqued on construction, sustainability, use of materials, cost and the time that went into the boat. Next, there is the submerge test where the canoe is filled with water and submerged beneath the water’s surface. If it resurfaces, the team is eligible to compete in men and women’s races from sprints, to marathons and obstacle courses. 

The 45 person team has come far in the past three years. They placed third at the ASCE Pacific Northwest Competition in 2015 and their goal this year is a top five finish at the Canadian nationals.

The relatively small team is facing the challenge of prepping for races and raising money to cover travel costs. But for them, the benefits go beyond travel and competition. 

“I think we built up a really nice community. We’re all pretty close,” said hull design lead Matthew Chung. 

Team members cite the unique learning experience and diversity as important elements of the team. 

“One of the good things about our team is that anybody can join and they are free to take on as much work as they want,” said team captain Tyler Mann. Experience or an engineering major are not necessary to join the team.

“I’m just really happy that we’re keeping the tradition going and I hope this team goes on forever,” said sponsorship lead Flynn Murdock. “You get to watch these peers of yours learn and progress. It’s not about the canoe anymore. I’m at a place right now where I wouldn’t be if I didn’t have Concrete Canoe.”