31 May 2017 • by Anneke Dam
The F1 among canoes
Just imagine: you’ve climbed a mountain and see a beautiful lake stretching out before you. Wouldn’t it be great to have a canoe with you at this high elevation? But how could you get a canoe up the mountain?
Mechanical Engineering students Ron Smetsers and Emiel van Setten devised a new solution. And the idea for the KanoePack was born. Both students will present their ‘foldable canoe’ this week at the International Festival of Technology in Delft. The KanoePack is a lightweight 1-person canoe weighing only seven kilos and made of three parts that can be carried in a backpack. Ron and Emiel are designing this canoe along with other students in the Betafactory in Delft where students develop dozens of projects every year. Stepping inside the Betafactory, you can’t help being intrigued by the prototype of the canoe, also known as ‘the nesting canoe’. ‘Just like a Russian nesting doll, you can fit the parts of the canoe one over another and carry them in your backpack,’ explained Ron. ‘Erwin Sengers, a lecturer in Entrepreneurial Behaviour at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, came up with the idea of the foldable canoe. When he presented his idea to us, we decided to go to work on it as part of our degree programme. We’re working on a concept study that involves considering all kinds of designs, materials and ways of combining them that will meet all the requirements. These requirements are very specific: develop a canoe that you can carry on your back and then click it together within five minutes to get it into the water.’
A canoe in a few clicks
This was the idea that got Ron and Emiel started. But it wasn’t long before it turned into a multidisciplinary project. Developing the KanoePack involved the combined efforts of 40 students and was appropriately presented with the Collaboration Award during the Hybrid Student Entrepreneur competition held at THUAS on 18 May. Of the 23 concepts assessed, the canoe was ultimately determined to be the most feasible design. Ron: ‘It’s a proven concept, and its design offers plenty of possibilities. Although foldable canoes are nothing new on the market, all of them are heavy. Even the lightest of these weighs 14 kilos and has no baggage compartment.’ The KanoePack is different.
From backpack to chair
All of the canoe’s parts are multifunctional. One example is the canoe’s watertight compartment that can store baggage and food or wood to start a fire. At the same time, this compartment is a bag that’s part of the especially designed backpack. The three panels of the canoe are made of composite materials to make it very light and strong. Emiel: ‘We also developed paddles with removable blades: take off the blades and use the shafts as walking sticks. And you can turn the backpack into a comfortable seat for use in the canoe.’ ‘And these are just a few examples,’ added Ron. ‘If this canoe proves successful, we don’t want to just leave it at this. Instead, we want to keep on tweaking it to make it even better. What about a frame with a notch for attaching a fishing rod? Or other accessories like a kite you could use as a sail, or a rudder to help keep you on course.’
From prototype to product
The second prototype of the canoe should be finished this summer. ‘The biggest challenge is to turn this prototype into a canoe suitable for mass production. Outdoor shop Bever is really excited about this possibility and will be our first buyer and distributor. As soon as our second prototype is ready, we’ll also be talking with Kanoshop.nl about a possible distribution of the canoe via their European network. We hope to have the KanoePack ready for a market launch within a year and a half,’ said Emiel. These two have high ambitions. Emiel: ‘The Dutch market is relatively small, so we want to go abroad with our product. We’ll focus first of all on Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries where canoeing is hugely popular. After that, the next step will be the United States, Asia and Australia,’ said Emiel. Ron: ‘Our goal is to establish a company that manages its own production and operates a sound, sustainable business. This also includes the possibility of continually improving the product and responding to new developments.’
Both students will present their prototype of the KanoePack during the International Festival of Technology that will take place in Delft on 7, 8 and 9 June. More information is available at ifot-delft.com/nl.