Paddles of Glory

Concrete Canoe Team Wins Second Place, Will Compete in Nationals

UMass Lowell’s 2012 concrete canoe team poses with the “Revolution.”

UMass Lowell’s 2012 concrete canoe team poses with the “Revolution.”

05/15/2012
By Edwin L. Aguirre

A concrete canoe designed and built by UMass Lowell students, dubbed “Revolution,” won second place in the annual regional competition organized by the New England student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The race was hosted by the University of New Hampshire in April at Ayer’s Lake Campground in Barrington, N.H.

“UMass Lowell fielded a very competitive team and we finished a strong second overall out of 11 teams, behind last year’s winner, Laval University from Quebec City, and ahead of the University of Rhode Island,” says Dean John Ting of the Francis College of Engineering.

The students’ achievement earned them a spot in the ASCE national competition, which will be held June 14 through 16 at the University of Nevada in Reno. The students will face 21 other qualifying teams, including those from Clemson, Rutgers, Louisiana Tech, Laval University, UC Berkeley, Oregon State, California Polytechnic, Michigan Technological University and the University of Texas.

“This is the first time since 1994 that UMass Lowell is going to the nationals,” says David Nader, a civil engineering senior from Andover who is the team’s concrete mix project engineer. “We are very excited and very proud of our accomplishment. It’s another feather in the cap for the civil engineering program. It shows what we’ve learned and what we can accomplish in the University.”

Adds fellow civil engineering senior Justin Wilson of Milton, who is the team’s hull design project engineer: “We owe a lot to the previous concrete-canoe teams for sharing their knowledge and experience with us. Without them, we would not have had this opportunity to compete in this year’s nationals.”

Lighter Than Water 

The Revolution, which was molded from a specially formulated lightweight concrete mix and reinforced with carbon-fiber mesh, measures 20 feet long, 30 inches wide and 14 inches deep, and weighs 208 pounds. Its half-inch-thick concrete hull is light yet very strong — it has a tensile strength of 520 pounds per square inch and a compression strength of nearly 3,000 pounds per square inch. To qualify for racing, it had to pass a “swamp” test in which the canoe is filled with water and pushed below the surface; the canoe must resurface on its own.

“UMass Lowell, which has its roots as the Lowell Textile School, has a long and rich history of industrial and technological innovation,” says Nader. “Our canoe captures the very essence of Lowell’s historically innovative thinking, which all started with the American Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.”

“With many of the ASCE’s 2011 design restrictions lifted, we implemented several improvements,” says Wilson. “The hull was completely redesigned to incorporate hydrodynamics and optimal canoe design theory. The new hull is smaller, lighter, stronger and faster than UMass Lowell’s previous canoes. New construction methods use recycled foam mold and ribs and carbon-fiber meshing to help increase the overall strength and sustainability of the canoe. The Revolution is the University’s most innovative canoe to date.”

Profs. Don Leitch and Ed Hajduk of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department serve as the school’s ASCE student chapter advisers. Laboratories Director Gary Howe is the concrete canoe team adviser. Civil engineering junior Luis Aguilar is the team’s artist who designed the canoe’s beautiful red and blue artwork. 

Funding for the team is provided by the offices of Dean Ting and Provost Ahmed Abdelal as well as by alumni from previous canoe teams. Corporate sponsors include J. G. MacLellan Concrete Co., Lehigh Cement, W.R. Grace & Co., Siltro and Flyers Unlimited.

To see photos of the regional races, visit the Francis College of Engineering Facebook page.