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Concrete Canoe Team Heads to Nationals

UMass Lowell Among 23 Student Groups to Vie for Racing, Design Honors


Contacts:   Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
                 Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – Twenty UMass Lowell students who have designed and built a concrete canoe are preparing to race it into the winner’s circle of a national engineering contest later this week. 

On Monday, team members carefully loaded the canoe into a truck before making the 18-hour drive from UMass Lowell to Illinois for the annual Concrete Canoe Competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This year’s contest, held June 20 through June 22 and hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will include 22 other collegiate teams from across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. 

The canoe, called “Moswetuset” – a Native American word meaning “shaped like an arrowhead” and the origin of the name “Massachusetts” – measures 19 feet, 8 inches, is 26 inches across at its widest point and is 13 inches deep. Weighing in at 132 pounds, it was molded from a lightweight concrete and reinforced with fiberglass mesh. 

To land the national berth, the students placed first in a qualifying regional round in April, beating out teams from the Northeast and Canada. 

The competition poses both academic and athletic challenges. In the national round, canoes will be judged on their design, construction quality, a presentation that touts their attributes and the results from men’s and women’s slalom-endurance races and men’s, women’s and co-ed sprints. To qualify for racing, the canoe must pass a “swamp test,” during which it will be submerged under water and must resurface on its own.

Student team members are from the following communities:
  • Andover – David Nader 
  • Ashburnham – Maureen Kelly
  • Barre – Allan Bassett 
  • Cambridge – Julie Eaton
  • Dracut – Jonathan Nadeau
  • Haverhill – Zachary Greene
  • North Billerica – Jonathan Ernst 
  • North Grafton - Jeffrey Bruso 
  • Lowell – Luis Aguilar, Lora Sitha
  • Methuen – Brendan Sprague, Michael Sprague
  • Millis – Cassandra Piorkowski
  • Milton – Justin Wilson
  • Peabody – Jesse Merchant
  • Quincy – Joseph Benoit
  • Saugus – Mark Procopio
  • Wilmington – Natalie Melkonian
  • Woburn – Pat Raistrick
  • Pelham, N.H. – Aikaterini Dimitriou
Working under project manager Jonathan Ernst, a civil-engineering major from Billerica, team members signed on to a variety of subcommittees that focused on specific issues such as the canoe’s design, aesthetics, concrete mix and construction, along with race-paddling techniques.   

“This competition takes learning to a new level. It has put students in a position to be on a team working on an eight- to nine-month project, which is similar to working in the engineering world,” Ernst said. “I am very proud of my team for all of the effort they have put in so far. A lot of hours went into this project and I am sure the team will not be disappointed with the result.”

Advising the students is Gary Howe, director of UMass Lowell’s civil and environmental engineering laboratories. Civil engineering faculty member Edward Hajduk oversees the university’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

This year’s team incorporated the best practices of UMass Lowell students who have been members of the university’s concrete canoe teams in the past, according to Howe. “Every year, we’ve improved on something while maintaining what we’ve already done, so we’re not reinventing the wheel – we just keep on improving,” he said. 

For more about the competition, visit

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 16,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.