While the main goal of our club is to do what is seemingly impossible and build a canoe out of concrete, we also aim to tell a story with each canoe we make. To accomplish this, each year a theme is picked which will embodies our goals. This year, our canoe was coined Ti’Swaq, a name given to Mt. Rainier by the Puyallup Tribe. With the striking views of the mountain from our campus, we are reminded of it each rare, sunny day.
In Pacific Northwest mythology, there is a tale of two hikers who wanted to venture past the snowline and summit Mt. Rainier which had not yet been accomplished. While the locals warned them not to, they pushed past into the unknown in order to achieve their goal. Our team entered the year with the summit in sight and has persevered through unseen obstacles in order to proudly present Ti’Swaq!
Building a canoe out of concrete is not easy and takes months of hard work. Some of the main tasks that must be completed are:
Unlike previous years, we designed a hull that would be placed in a female mold, allowing us to keep the outside shape of the canoe as flawless as possible, creating a canoe that tracks beautifully through the water. A sponsor was kind enough to CNC our mold, perfectly turning our modeled hull into a 20 foot reality. With this came an obstacle we have never encountered before: how to post-tension a female mold. Several ideas were proposed, and through collaboration, a successful construction process was created.
One of the biggest challenges our team faces each year is designing our concrete to float. The goal is to make a mix that is less dense than water, using different aggregates and admixtures. Through use of lightweight aggregate pumice, we were able to achieve a buoyant canoe! Additionally, by using pumice, which comes directly from volcanoes similar to Mt. Rainier, our canoe truly embodied our theme.
All of our hard work throughout the year culminates in one weekend at our regional competition. In April, we loaded up the trailer with our canoe and made the trek to Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
The competition has 4 components, weighted equally:
1) Design Paper: a technical paper that must fully describe the design, construction, and all other work put into our canoe. Throughout the year, we keep detailed records on our design and construction process, how many hours were spent on each task, our budget, and membership so we can report these in the paper.
2) Oral Presentation: a five minute oral presentation followed by seven minutes of technical questions from judges encompassing all aspects of the project. The presenters must be knowledgeable about every aspect of our canoe, as they could receive questions about materials in our concrete, the structural analysis done, our construction schedule or any other aspect of the project.
3) Final Product & Displays: includes the canoe itself, cross section and product display. Every aspect must be aesthetically pleasing and meet the specifications laid out in the rules. This year we are inspired by Mt. Rainier, modeling our display after national parks.
4) Races: there are 5 races - women's & men's sprints, women's & men's endurance, and coed sprints. Paddlers began practicing in October and continued throughout the year in order to perfect their form and maintain arm and core strength.
In the past, we have won the races, contributing a large amount of points to our score. This year, due to weather conditions, we were unable to race our canoe, meaning our score was solely comprised of the first three categories. Even with this set back we blasted away the competition at regionals! We look forward to be able to race our canoe at nationals against other top tier schools from around our country, as well as a few international schools!
Concrete Canoe plays a unique role at the University of Washington. While there are hundreds of clubs for students to join, many of the engineering clubs require an application. Concrete Canoe is one of the few exceptions to this. We want to give students of every background the opportunity to participate with others interested in similar subjects, while also providing collaboration and mentorship between engineering and pre-engineering students.
This year, we had over 70 students involved in making Ti'Swaq putting in a combined time of 4072 man-hours, and 36 members attending regionals. Our goal is to bring as many members as possible to the National Competition being held in San Diego. While it is essential to bring our presenters and paddlers to Nationals, it is a valuable learning experience for all members and will allow us to have the best canoe for coming years. Nationals is a competition, but it is more than that: it is an opportunity to learn from some of the best schools in the world as well as to teach others. By having the leadership for next year attend this competition, we are providing our team with as much knowledge as possible.
After countless late nights and months and months of work, the University of Washington is proud to present this year's canoe, Ti'Sawq. Without the generous donations from many sponsors and future donations to come, none of this would be possible and we cannot express how truly thankful we are to each and every one of you!