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Innovative Learning Experience Detroit To Pittsburgh Canoe Expedition

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Integrating H&SS in Engineering I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.768.1 - 11.768.23



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Paper Authors


Donald Carpenter Lawrence Technological University

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Donald Carpenter is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. Dr. Carpenter also serves as Chair of the Educational Innovation Collaborative at LTU and Coordinator of the Civil Engineering Assessment Program. He is actively involved in ASEE and serves as Faculty Advisor for the ASCE Student Chapter at LTU. His research interests involve academic integrity, assessment tools, urban stream restoration, and watershed processes.

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Andrew Gerhart Lawrence Technological University

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Andrew Gerhart is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Lawrence Technological University. He is actively involved in ASEE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Engineering Society of Detroit. He serves as Faculty Advisor for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Student Chapter at LTU, the LTU SAE Aero Design Student Competition Team, and the LTU Hydropower National Competition Team.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Innovative Learning Experience – Detroit to Pittsburgh Canoe Expedition


Engineering students at Lawrence Technological University participated in a unique and innovative learning experience in a joint venture between the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. From the autumn of 2003 through the summer of 2005, the students planned, organized, and completed an historic 500-mile canoe trip from Detroit to Pittsburgh via Lake Erie to mark the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the French and Indian War (specifically the Battle of the Monongahela outside present-day Pittsburgh in 1755). The canoe expedition followed a route that was a standard trade and shipping route for the French and Native Americans up to the 1750s. Starting near the Lawrence Tech campus on the Rouge River in metropolitan Detroit, the students canoed into the Detroit River and along the length of Lake Erie. After several weeks of paddling Lake Erie, students portaged sixteen miles from Erie to Waterford, Pennsylvania (on French Creek), thereby passing from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River basin. They were the first people in modern times to make this historic portage, which was a key transportation link for the French colonial government and Native Americans in the region. The students then traveled down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh, participating in commemorative events along the way.

The purpose of this project was to provide students with a multi-faceted out-of-class educational experience to better prepare them to be lifelong learners, problem solvers, and more well rounded citizens. From beginning to end, the students gained valuable life lessons and learned about teamwork, leadership, time management, fundraising, communication, history, engineering, social issues, environment, and the Great Lakes region in a fashion that is not conducive to traditional classroom instruction. In addition, students honed their engineering and problem solving skills by designing and building a 24-ft, six-person replica “Canoe du Nord” or North Canoe. With the aid of historical records, the canoe hull was designed using computer drafting software (Solid Edge). The canoe has the shape, size, and appearance of historic Great Lakes 18th-century birch-bark watercraft, but was constructed out of modern materials for durability and safety.

During the planning stages, students could earn up to six credits toward their degrees. Three of the credit hours (separated over three semesters) focused on entrepreneurial skills (logistical planning, leadership, teamwork, innovation, and fundraising) and counted as an engineering technical elective. The remaining three credits were for a course that studied historical, political, and technological aspects of the time period and region. In addition, students prepared for the endeavor by planning and participating in other activities, including lifesaving, physical fitness, logistics management, and route scouting. During the trip, there were additional educational experiences, including visits to historical sites, museums, cultural events, and libraries where students shared their experiences.

Carpenter, D., & Gerhart, A. (2006, June), Innovative Learning Experience Detroit To Pittsburgh Canoe Expedition Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--598

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