Skip to main content
Concrete Canoe team members work together on building their 2023 competition boat.
May 19, 2023

Student Org Spotlight: UW-Madison Concrete Canoe

The UW-Madison Concrete Canoe team finished strong at the 2023 regional competition in Duluth, Minnesota this spring, taking second place overall, second place in prototype design, and second place in technical paper.

As the team prepares to compete at nationals in June, we caught up with Club President Kelsey Kemper (BSChemE ’25) to learn about the org, what it’s like to be a member, and what’s next for the group.

What is Concrete Canoe?

The Concrete Canoe team brings students together in a fun atmosphere to design and build a concrete canoe by applying the engineering concepts we learn in class. Once the canoe is finished, we compete against other college and university student teams through the ASCE [American Society of Civil Engineers]. The experience helps us learn project management and teamwork skills that will be helpful in our future careers.

What can you share about this year’s Concrete Canoe submission?

Our boat is named Isthmus, and we were inspired by Madison’s Isthmus for our design. We see the Isthmus as more than a geographical landmark, as it helps to bring the community together and acts as a reminder of the natural environment.

The boat is 20-feet-long and weighs 290 lbs. We estimate that the entire project took a total of 1,725 hours to complete. We had a team of 22 people working on the canoe, and we used around 68 batches of concrete.

Isthmus, the 2023 UW-Madison Concrete Canoe, outside on a sunny day.
The 2023 UW-Madison Concrete Canoe on display at the regional competition in Duluth, MN.

Is Concrete Canoe for civil engineering students only?

The club is most relevant to students who are studying civil engineering, but everyone is welcome, including students from other engineering disciplines and majors. As a member of Concrete Canoe, you get hands-on experience with construction materials and engineering design.

We hold bi-weekly lab sessions to work on the canoe and have general meetings every other week to discuss upcoming project steps and events. Students are welcome to come to any of our lab sessions or meetings and can attend as often as they want. Our lab is in the Engineering Centers Building, room B1082. Labs are typically on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. and Fridays from 2-5 p.m.

What keeps you engaged in the Concrete Canoe team?

All the friends I have made. I joined the club because of my interest in engineering and to see how a boat made of concrete could float. From the start, everyone was so warm and inviting, and they continue to be such great teammates. I also love working on this project, and it’s fun to see it from start to finish in a school year. Any time I mention Concrete Canoe, people are always interested and want to learn more. It is such an exciting project.

What’s next for the team?

We are looking forward to once again representing UW-Madison on a national level and are interested to see what the other teams have in store at nationals. We are holding a couple of paddle practices to prepare our rowers for competition and hope to finalize our technical presentation soon.

If anyone is interested in helping us, we’re always looking for alumni or industry advisors to help us build our canoe and prep for competition. Monetary donations are also important to cover the cost of competition travel and building a canoe each year.

Please contact us at to learn more about advising or how to donate. You can also follow us on Instagram for updates about our canoe build, meetings, and more.