Skip to main content


Andrew Davidson

Spring 2022

The Boys in the Boat: Reimagining the ASUW Shell House

HCDE DRG (496/596)
Spring 2022, 2 credits
Meeting: Mondays, 1 – 2:30 p.m., in person

Watch the video above for a quick overview of the ASUW Shell House and restoration plan.
In this DRG, we will research, explore, design, and prototype concepts for interactive exhibits for the restored ASUW Shell House building.


Images from

In 1936, the UW Rowing team took the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics, defeating the world’s best crew teams in a stunning victory in front of Adolf Hitler. This inspiring story was chronicled in Seattle author Daniel James Brown’s best-selling 2013 book “The Boys in the Boat.” For more details about the 1936 Olympic rowing event, check out this excellent 2017 PBS documentary: “The Boys of '36.”

The team’s home was an iconic building on the UW campus known as the ASUW Shell House (pictured above with the 1936 medalist team). This building, which had previously served as a US Navy hangar and training facility for seaplanes in World War I, dates from 1918 and still exists, but has been languishing unused for many years.

The UW has launched a capital campaign for the restoration of the Shell House with comprehensive plans for its new life: The Next 100 Years Campaign. In addition, a feature film adaptation of “The Boys in the Boat,” directed by George Clooney, is going into production soon.

The restoration planning team, led by campaign manager Nicole Klein, envisions the new Shell House building as a student space for meetings and classes, an event venue, and a cultural center, including historical exhibits.

It is the latter purpose that is the focus of our investigation -- exploring ideas and concepts for engaging interactive exhibits about the history and legacy of the ASUW Shell House.


Students will work in small multi-disciplinary teams to engage in user research, ideation, design, and prototyping of concepts for interactive exhibits that could be a part of the restored Shell House experience. These exhibits could range from permanent installations to temporary pop-ups that bring to life the history and engaging stories about the building.

There are many aspects of the Shell House site and building that could be explored, from the indigenous Native American significance of the site (before the ship canal was constructed), to the US Navy origins of the hangar, to the home of the UW crew teams and famed boat builder George Pocock, the role of women in rowing at the UW, and the ASUW period after the crew teams moved to their current home at Conibear Shellhouse

Students will have access to the Shell House building, various stakeholders in the restoration, and experts on different aspects of the project. 

After engaging in the research and design process, teams will develop prototypes of their concepts, and will present these concepts to stakeholders at the end of the quarter.


We are looking for dedicated and enthusiastic students at all levels (Bachelor to PhD) to work on this project. We are especially interested in having students from both HCDE and Design in the DRG in order to facilitate a rich cross-disciplinary collaboration.

HCDE applicants should be familiar with basic human-centered design processes, including user-centered design research, ideation, and prototyping. At a minimum, they must have taken HCDE 318 or HCDE 518.

Design applicants should be familiar with design-centered ideation, visualizations and research, and have an interest in storytelling that is integrated into 3d environments. Skills in 3d-modeling and/or material exploration are a plus but not required.  

To apply, please submit your resume and a short statement explaining your interest in and qualifications for the project here:

The deadline to submit an application is Friday March 11, 2022, at 11:59 pm. We will notify accepted students by March 18. If you are accepted, we will provide you information about how to register for the DRG.


For questions about this DRG, please contact:
    Andrew Davidson <>
    or    Kristine Matthews <
    or    Plamena Milusheva <

Andrew Davidson's Research Group archive