Edwin L. Aguirre
You’ve probably seen canoes made of wood, plastic or fiberglass. But a canoe made of concrete that can actually float in water?
That’s the concept behind a regional competition organized by the New England student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Each year, dedicated teams of engineering students from UMass Lowell and across the Northeastern United States and Canada take on the challenge of building such canoes and racing them on the water.
This year’s competition and exhibition is hosted by the University of Rhode Island and will be held on Saturday, April 16 at Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, R.I., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The UMass Lowell team’s self-designed and built concrete canoe, dubbed “The Green Monster,” will try to outrace other teams from UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, Merrimack College, Northeastern University, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Roger Williams University, the University of Maine, Norwich University, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Laval University in Quebec.
“We have 28 team members in the competition,” says Jeremy Cahill, a UMass Lowell civil engineering senior who is the Green Monster’s project manager. “Almost all of them are civil engineering majors, but we do have chemical, plastics and mechanical engineering majors as well as business and biology students involved. Laboratories Director Gary Howe is our team adviser while Profs. Don Leitch and Ed Hajduk of civil engineering are our ASCE advisers.”
The competition features five different races — men’s endurance, women’s endurance, men’s sprints, women’s sprints and coed sprints. The ASCE judging includes not only the races, but also each team’s oral presentation and product display and the canoe engineering design paper it submits.
Last year’s UMass Lowell team and its canoe, “The Hydrohawk,” finished second overall in the races on the Charles River, beating all other New England competitors. The top prize was won by Laval University.
Lighter Than Water
The Green Monster, which was molded from a specially formulated lightweight concrete mix and reinforced with fiberglass mesh, measures 20 feet long, 31 inches wide and 16 inches deep, and weighs 182 pounds. To qualify for racing, it must pass a swamp test in which the canoe is filled with water and pushed below the surface; the canoe should resurface on its own.
“The Green Monster is about 70 pounds lighter than The Hydrohawk,” says Cahill. “Its half-inch-thick concrete structure is light yet very strong — it has a tensile strength of 650 pounds per square inch and a compression strength of 3,000 pounds per square inch.”
He says the team came up with The Green Monster theme with an emphasis on its dual meaning.
“On the surface, the name conveys the imposing nature of the left-field fence at Fenway Park, one of baseball’s most historic landmarks. But upon closer inspection, it can be seen that our primary focus was to develop a truly sustainable canoe without sacrificing any competitive edge,” says Cahill. “Our off-white concrete is UMass Lowell’s strongest and greenest to date.”