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UMass Lowell Concrete Canoe Stays Afloat in National Contest

Concrete Canoe team/Eagle-Tribune photo by Amy Sweeney
UMass Lowell students Lora Sitha, left, from Lowell, Justin Wilson, from Milton, Katerina Dimitriou, from Pelham, David Nader, from Andover, and Louis Aguilar, from El Salvador, get their concrete canoe ready to be transported to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois for the annual Concrete Canoe Competition. The competition is sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers.


LOWELL — UMass Lowell’s student team placed sixth this weekend at the national concrete canoe competition, finishing near the top among counterparts from institutions across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

The three-day competition — presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers and hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — asked student teams to design, build and race canoes made entirely of concrete.

UMass Lowell was the only university from New England and one of only two from the Northeast in the competition in which 23 teams were entered.

Ecole de technologie superieure, an engineering school in the University of Quebec system, took first place.

The 20-person UMass Lowell team competed with the canoe the students named “Moswetuset,” a Native American word meaning “shaped like an arrowhead” and the origin of the name “Massachusetts.” The watercraft measures 19 feet 8 inches long, 26 inches across at its widest point and 13 inches deep. Weighing in at 132 pounds, it was molded from a lightweight concrete and reinforced with fiberglass mesh.

In addition to judging on design, construction and their presentation, the student teams also competed on the water, racing in a variety of events from endurance to slalom. Three races had to be canceled because of weather conditions. And before racing, the canoes had to pass a “swamp test,” during which each was submerged and had to resurface on its own.

“The whole team is very enthusiastic about next year. Ideas are already flying and we will be starting to lay out those ideas in a few weeks,” said Jonathan Ernst of Billerica, the civil engineering major who is the team’s project manager. 

In addition to Ernst, student team members and their hometowns are: David Nader, Andover; Maureen Kelly, Ashburnham; Allan Bassett, Barre; Allan Bassett; Julie Eaton, Cambridge; Jonathan Nadeau, Dracut; Zachary Greene, Haverhill; Jeffrey Bruso, North Grafton; Luis Aguilar and Lora Sitha, Lowell; Brendan Sprague and Michael Sprague, Methuen; Cassandra Piorkowski, Millis; Justin Wilson, Milton; Jesse Merchant, Peabody; Joseph Benoit, Quincy; Mark Procopio, Saugus; Natalie Melkonian, Wilmington; Pat Raistrick, Woburn and Aikaterini Dimitrio, Pelham, N.H.