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 10 National Finishes
What is a Concrete Canoe?
A concrete canoe is exactly what it sounds like – a canoe made out of concrete! Interestingly enough, our canoe doesn’t just float due to displacement of water, but our concrete is actually less dense than water! This means that when the canoe is completely swamped with water, it still floats. Our concrete is unique in a few ways: it is entrained with air pockets and uses aggregates that are also lighter than water. Instead of the gravel aggregate used in typical concrete, we use different types of glass, plastic, and styrofoam. 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. Additionally, the year long competition provides insight into the engineering process, such as effective management, planning, budgeting, and risk mitigation.
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 social aspects of the club and enjoy the camaraderie of working towards a common goal. Finally, the paddlers enjoy the opportunity to train on Lake Washington for the competitive races.
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 is difficult to place concrete on the vertical slopes of the mold when the concrete is too wet, but 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 cures. Thus, the perfect concrete mix requires extensive testing.
Through all of the hard work, sweat, and long hours, the team comes together to produce the final product. Seeing the completed canoe on display at Regionals and Nationals is an incredibly rewarding sight. More than the finished canoe, 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.