The design phase is underway for TMU Concrete Canoe as the team cements their desire to engineer the most sustainable boat.
Every year, the TMU team, made up of roughly 25 engineering students, builds a canoe made of concrete from scratch to compete in the annual Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition (CNCCC). Held in May, the location changes every year, with Quebec City chosen as the spot for 2024.
As part of the competition, the team must show the judges that their canoe can float in the Swamp Test before racing in open water.
After placing first in Ontario and fourth overall in 2023, the TMU team plans on impressing the judges and earning more points this go round with their canoe’s sustainable design.
This sustainability comes from smashed concrete canoes from previous years, or what the team calls “recycled aggregate.”
“Last year, 10 per cent of our canoe biomass was this recycled aggregate,” said Jeremy Winick, co-captain of Concrete Canoe. “This year, potentially…it’s going to end up being 40 per cent of our canoe.”
The smashed canoes aren’t just from TMU. This year, the team also outsourced a broken concrete canoe from the University of Toronto.
“The heat that’s required to actually produce cement is insane,” said Faisal Awan, co-captain of Concrete Canoe.
So, adding more smashed canoe pieces into their concrete mix will help the team cut their CO2 emissions in half, according to Winick.
But recycling old canoes isn’t without its challenges.
Keeping a concrete canoe afloat requires thoughtful engineering. The canoe needs to be less dense than water, explained Prasad Shah, the strategic development lead for Concrete Canoe.
While typical concrete is over twice as dense as water, the team has an innovative mix that lowers this number, but adding in old pieces makes it heavier.
“You’re not reusing [canoes] in an easy way. It makes it way harder,” said Winick.
In addition to earning a higher sustainability score, the team hopes to get the top spot for their canoe’s look again.
Last year, they won the design portion of the CNCCC with their barn theme T-Moo, a play on the school’s new name, TMU.
Continuing that trend, this year’s theme is ‘Retro Metro,’ an old-school diner that plays off the word Metropolitan.
The team took inspiration from the ingredients it takes to make concrete, which, according to Awan, is a lot like baking a cake.
The challenges presented in staying creative while being sustainable are all part of the fun for the Concrete Canoe club.
“Concrete is probably one of the most rigid and dense [materials]. We have to make it the opposite,” said Awan. “You’re going against the nature of what the material is, and that’s what poses the engineering problem.”