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Concrete Canoe Team Places Sixth at Nationals

UMass Lowell Engineering Students Finish Near Top in Racing, Design Contest


Contacts for media:, 978-934-2209 or, 978-934-4944  

LOWELL, Mass. – 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. The contest also required students to deliver oral presentations and a 20-page report on their canoes’ design and construction.

UMass Lowell was the only university from New England and one of only two from the Northeast to reach the nationals, earning the right to compete after beating out schools from across the region and Canada, including perennial top national finishers, at regionals in April. 

At the nationals, UMass Lowell finished in the top third of the 23 teams that competed. Ecole de technologie superieure, an engineering school in the University of Quebec system that has placed in the top five in four of the last six competitions, 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.

“I am very proud of my team and they should be very proud of themselves. They have put a lot of effort into this competition and sixth place is a great way to finish out the year,” said Jonathan Ernst, the civil engineering major who is the team’s project manager. “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.” 

Leading the team with Ernst were Luis Aguilar, aesthetics and design captain; Joseph Benoit, construction and paddling captain; and David Nader, mix captain. Gary Howe, director of UMass Lowell’s civil and environmental engineering laboratories, is the team’s adviser and civil engineering faculty member Edward Hajduk oversees the university’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

UMass Lowell’s student team members and their hometowns are: 
  •  Andover – David Nader 
  •  Ashburnham – Maureen Kelly 
  •  Barre – Allan Bassett 
  •  Billerica – Jonathan Ernst 
  •  Cambridge – Julie Eaton
  •  Dracut – Jonathan Nadeau
  •  Haverhill – Zachary Greene
  •  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

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, 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.