A group of Western Carolina University students brought a high-tech twist this summer to the 200th anniversary celebration of the Lewis and Clark journey by using modern materials and technologies to re-create the type of canoe the famed expeditionary team used to explore the Louisiana Purchase.

The 11 students, working in an interdisciplinary project instruction class taught by Bob Dalley, associate professor of engineering technology, each built their own pirogue canoe during the special summer course, testing the vessels on a pond near Western Carolina’s soccer field.

“While the double-paddle pirogue these students built is the same type of canoe that the Lewis and Clark expedition used, it is a far cry from what the explorers used 200 years ago,” said Dalley. “Features our students incorporated into their canoes include a composite frameless core hull with rocker hydrodynamics selected by each student for his or her individual application, a Kevlar graphite fiberglass bottom, and thermoplastic bonded gunwales and chines. This advanced technology resulted in a light, quiet, durable, buoyant and fast watercraft.”

Originally designed in 1977 by Mike O’Brien, editor of Boat Design Quarterly, the canoe design also is used in the watercraft studies program at Buffalo State College, said Dalley, who has had several of his boat designs featured in Wooden Boat and Epoxyworks magazines. He frequently tests his boats on the waters of Lake Junuluska near his home.

Upon completion of their canoes, several students have been using the remainder of their summers to test out their watercraft in such locations as Key West, the Snake River, and North Carolina’s coastal waters, Dalley said.

“That’s one of the neatest things about this project,” he said. “Participants will be answering inquiries about their canoe design, materials and how they built their watercraft for years to come.”

Students taking part in the special course:

Eric Collins, a graduate student in business affairs from Whittier; Cory Edwards, a senior manufacturing engineering technology major from Pinnacle; Jesse Gray, a senior art major from Whiteville; Matt Hudson, a senior manufacturing engineering technology major from Arden; Sandra Johnson, a graduate student in business affairs from North Wilkesboro; Dave McCarthy, a junior criminal justice major from Havelock; Kurt Schoeller, a senior industrial technology major from Greensboro; Erin Smith, a graduate student in business affairs from Sylva; Nathan West, a senior industrial distribution major from Fayetteville; Sarah Willow, a junior art major from Hendersonville; and Cameron Zotter, a sophomore art major from Raleigh.

For information on Western’s canoe-building course, contact Dalley at (828) 227-2163, or via e-mail at Bdalley@wcu.edu