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April 8, 1998

UW engineering students paddle concrete canoe to regional title

University of Washington’s concrete canoe team sank the competition Sunday (April 5) to win its first regional title in 16 years at the 1998 Pacific Northwest regional student conference of the American Society of Civil Eng ineers in Seattle.

The UW group bested teams from 10 other universities, including perennial regional champs Washington State University. The UW now advances to the national competition June 18-20 in Rapid City, S.D.

“There’s definitely a rivalry with WSU because they always win the regional canoe competition,” explains Nete Leth, president of the UW student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which hosted the conference. “We wanted to beat WSU no matter what.”

The competition included sprint and long-distance races Sunday on Seattle’s Green Lake. The canoes also were judged on design, appearance and technical soundness. Though it seems impossible, concrete can indeed float if it i s made with buoyant volcanic rock and light-weight binding material rather than conventional sand, gravel and cement.

UW concrete canoe team members credit the unique teardrop shape and smooth, car-like finish of their canoe as well as their superior paddling skills for the victory. They also had an added incentive to win this year as 1998 marks the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the university’s civil engineering department .

Regardless of where the students finished in the standings, however, they say the competition provides an invaluable, hands-on learning experience. Relying on material covered in their courses as well as outside research and consulting, the students have spent months designing, testing and building their canoes. The contests, Leth says, allow them to see how their engineering skills stack up against their peers.

Team members were: Ken Leland of Seattle; Eric O’Brien of Oregon City, Ore.; Larry Cimino of Chrisman, Ill.; Amie Gladfelter of Sandpoint, Idaho; Margaret Hahn of Billings, Mont.; Jennifer Kipp of Renton, Wash.; Mark Malsam of West Seattle, Wash.; Darrel Schlaegel of Edmonds, Wash.; Amy Skare of Shelton, Wash.; Kieu Vu of Lynnwood, Wash.; and Kurt Zimmers of Bainbridge Island, Wash.

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