The University of Washington Concrete Canoe team is a student organization associated with the University of Washington Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Each year, the UW Concrete Canoe Team designs, constructs, and races a canoe made primarily of concrete, competing against teams from other schools at the regional and national level. If you’re a student looking to join us, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by one of our meetings listed on our events page. If you are an individual or part of a company looking to support us, visit our Donate page to help!
Years of History
Top 5 National Finishes
What is a Concrete Canoe?
A concrete canoe is exactly what it sounds like – a canoe made out of concrete! The interesting part is that our canoe doesn’t just float due to displacement of water, but our concrete is actually less dense than water! When the canoe is completely swamped with water, it still floats. This is the result of a combination of factors: The concrete used is entrained with air pockets and uses aggregates that are also lighter than water to decrease the density. Instead of the gravel used in typical concrete, different types of glass, plastic, and styrofoam are used as aggregate. We also use environmentally friendly replacements for cements and aggregates including slag and recycled glass beads.
Why Build a Canoe out of Concrete?
Building a concrete canoe is fun, challenging, and extremely rewarding. It’s an opportunity to get hands-on with a material that is commonly used in civil engineering applications. No other engineering majors work with concrete to the extent that we do, making the exploration of the extents of concrete’s abilities a challenge unique to civil engineering. By getting this hands-on opportunity, we learn more about the material, which will allow us to be better prepared to design and work with concrete in our future careers.
Although concrete canoe is a learning experience, fun also comes in many forms on the team – Some people enjoy simply getting their hands dirty and working with the concrete mixes. Others appreciate the camaraderie of working towards a common goal and social aspect of the club. Finally, others enjoy the opportunity to train in Lake Washington for the competitive races. These people are the lucky paddlers that get the chance to race in our finished product.
There are many challenges that are associated with the concrete canoe team. The biggest challenge comes from the material itself – Concrete can be a fickle material to work with since changing any one characteristic can have a cascading effect on the rest of the material’s characteristics. For instance it can be difficult to place concrete on the vertical slopes of the mold when the concrete is too wet. On the other hand, if the concrete gets too dry it becomes stiff and impossible to place. The amount of water added initially also affects the ultimate strength of the concrete once it dries. It is easy to see how there is always a balance that needs to be found.
Finally, the team comes together through all of the hard work, sweat, and tears to produce the final product. Seeing the completed canoe on display at Regionals and Nationals can be one of the most rewarding sights of the entire year. Still, it’s not all about the competition. This team is also about learning and having a good time. In the end, it’s all about the knowledge gained and the memories created over the entire process.