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 more 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 folks enjoy simply getting their hands dirty and working with the unique concrete mixes. Others appreciate the social aspects of the club and enjoy meeting new people and the camaraderie of working towards a common goal. Additionally, our paddlers enjoy the opportunity to train for the competitive races on the beautiful Lake Washington.
There are many challenges that are associated with the concrete canoe team. One of the biggest challenges 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, extensive testing and research is required as we strive for the perfect concrete mix.
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 can be an incredibly rewarding sight. More than the finished canoe though, this team is about learning, having a good time, and working towards making ourselves better engineers and adding even more to our Husky Experience. In the end, it’s all about the knowledge gained and the memories created throughout the entire process.