Jenks Graduate Kaitlyn Faust Helps OU Canoe Team to Win Competition


Kaitlyn Faust, a Jenks native, can raise her paddle in victory after winning first place in the regional engineering design, knowledge and stamina competition with 19 concrete canoe teammates from the University of Oklahoma Gallogly College of Engineering. The Mid-Continent Regional Competition was held at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale through the American Society of Civil Engineers’ collegiate chapters. 

“The OU Concrete Canoe team has had great success in the past, and this year is no exception,” said Rachel Wesson, concrete canoe head captain and civil engineering senior. With Faust’s engineering contributions, the team had a perfect score in three categories: technical paper, oral presentation and final product.

“It is tough to get zero deductions in just one category,” Wesson explained. “When we realized we had zero deductions across the board, we were ecstatic.”

This is the first time in the past 15 years OU’s team has won the regional competition. Wesson said this year’s success is due to team work and “triple checking” the rules.

While mixing concrete and designing structures that can withstand stress are often associated with civil engineering, the OU Concrete Canoe team is a diverse mix of engineering majors, including chemical engineering, aerospace and mechanical engineering, and civil engineering.

“It is really cool because they bring different ideas and perspective to the table,” Wesson said. “Having a chemical engineer on the team definitely gave us an advantage when the judges asked us technical questions about our custom mix.”

Every year, teams must create a new canoe for the competition. The process takes approximately nine months from design and material mixing to molding and launch. Wesson, who has been on the canoe team for four years, said each year brings new challenges.

The students expected the small cracks in the hull when they took it out of the mold, and these were quickly fixed. The bigger trouble came two weeks before competition when the buoyancy chambers, built to keep the canoe afloat, broke. While replacing the chambers, the team punctured the canoe. A crack running the width of the canoe was discovered a week before competition—as well as 13 small cracks the day of racing.

“It is exciting and nerve racking,” Wesson explained. “Right up to race time we were concerned that the canoe would leak, but every time we found a solution, and we won.”

The creation, presentation and unexpected problems are part of why the canoe competition is valuable. It connects the classroom to the real world by challenging members to apply school concepts to a working product in a team environment.

“I have learned valuable teamwork and leadership skills that you don’t quite get in a classroom environment but are important when heading out into the engineering profession,” Wesson said.

OU is hosting the regional competition in April 2019. Wesson and several of her graduating team members are helping plan the event and pass on “lessons learned” to the next OU concrete canoe team.

Updated 07-24-2018

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