Concrete canoe team’s triumphant return makes waves at national competition  – Faculty of Engineering

Concrete canoe team’s triumphant return makes waves at national competition 

group shot of a team of students standing in the shallow end of a lake surrounding a concrete canoe.
By Annie Phan

For the first time in nearly 50 years, McMaster University’s Concrete Canoe Team has returned to campus and made a splash at this year’s Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition (CNCCC). Placing 15th overall out of 19 teams, the team, which was founded in November of 2023, was led by co-founders, co-captains and engineering students Samantha DiMauro and Mack Wallhouse. 

two people posing in captain hats, learning on the edge of a concrete canoe.
Samantha DiMauro (left) and Mack Wallhouse (right).

Despite starting late into the academic year and facing a steep learning curve, the team demonstrated exceptional resilience and dedication. They excelled in several events throughout the competition, securing eighth place in the 200-metre female sprint, 10th in project proposals and 11th in the oral presentation. 

On a trip to the University of Victoria, DiMauro saw its students’ concrete canoe and connected with Wallhouse to start thinking about the possibilities at McMaster. What started as a casual conversation quickly turned into a serious endeavour. They embarked on an ambitious journey to build a competitive concrete canoe from scratch in less than half the time other competing schools had. 

“We saw how massive the competition teams were at other schools and knew that with some of our time and effort, and a great deal of faculty and student support, why shouldn’t we have a team at McMaster?” says DiMauro. 

What this year’s team didn’t know until recently was that McMaster was leading the pack as one the first university concrete canoe teams 50 years ago. The team competed in the first-ever Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition in 1974 but hasn’t competed since.  

Globe and Mail article from 1974 featuring McMaster University’s Concrete Canoe team.

“Knowing that McMaster’s Concrete Canoe team was already a part of the history of the CNCCC, it’s so exciting to be able to reignite this tradition and bring the competition to even more McMaster Engineering students,” says Wallhouse. 

The 2023-24 team attracted over 70 students, with 24 dedicated members making it to the competition. The diverse group included students from various engineering disciplines including civil, mechanical, materials, BTech, and Engineering 1, bringing together a broad spectrum of McMaster’s engineering talent. 

Through this hands-on project, students gained invaluable experience, applying classroom knowledge to real-world challenges. They honed their skills in creative problem-solving, teamwork and technical documentation, preparing them for future careers in engineering. 

“It’s been a great opportunity for us to apply and pass down our engineering skills towards something tangible, fun and exciting,” says Wallhouse. “The competition has also given us opportunities to network and learn from teams from other universities across the country, sharing our insights and challenges we faced with one another and connecting with other engineering students. 

three people in a concrete canoe, rowing on a lake.

As DiMauro and Wallhouse embark on the next steps of their journey outside McMaster as recent graduates, they pass the torch to new captains Ally Seow and Patricia Owen. 

With their inaugural competition behind them, the McMaster Concrete Canoe Team is more motivated than ever. In preparation for their next competition in Manitoba next year, they plan to leverage the knowledge gained and the connections made to improve their performance in future competitions. Their goals include breaking into the top 10 for various categories, enhancing team marketing and fostering a vibrant and supportive community within McMaster Engineering.  

“We’re very grateful to everyone who supported us with this crazy idea,” says DiMauro. “Our executive team, our Faculty Advisor, Ousmane Hissiene, the shop techs at the Applied Dynamics Laboratory, Paul and Kent, and the McMaster Engineering Faculty who gave us the resources and support to be able to make this dream a reality!”  

a group of students wearing red jumpsuits posing in a concrete canoe.

Learn more about the Concrete Canoe Team at McMaster