Concrete Toboggan gearing up for competition

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 | By Lindsay Cashin

The UBC Concrete Toboggan Team is making the final preparations for the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan race, taking place February 8 – 12 in Winnipeg. This year, 30 team members are travelling to the competition: 14 GNCTR veterans and 16 first-timers, representing the Civil Department and others.

The team has been working for months to design and build a concrete toboggan that meets competition standards: it must have an entirely concrete running surface, a functional steering system, and a braking system. It must also weigh less than 350lbs, and be capable of safely carrying five passengers while hurtling down a snowy slope at up to 65 kilometres per hour.

It’s not enough to rebuild last year’s toboggan – the competition calls on teams to innovate. Joshua Redmond, team captain, talks about the strides the 2017 team has made in terms of design complexity: “The braking system has evolved dramatically, to a system of pulleys and hinges. Extra reinforcement has been added to the roll cage, and the steering has evolved to consist of an integrated rack and pinion, similar to how an automobile would work.” No detail has gone overlooked: the team has gone so far as to incorporate seashells into their concrete mix, a nautical steering wheel, and other details to reflect their chosen theme. This year’s team name? “Deadliest Batch.”

With a 2016 showing of second-place overall, the team is aiming high: they hope to place in the top three for at least one of the competition categories. But the team stands to gain more than victory in the competition. In addition to the main event, participation in the technical exhibition and a number of other activities on the program gives team members great professional development and networking opportunities. “It’s an excellent chance to meet new friends; to meet that connection that might get them the job later,” Joshua says.

Indeed, there are valuable learning outcomes associated with the entire design, build, and competition process: “It’s a supportive learning environment – we do put school first. And we’re hopeful that what the students take away from it is how engineering justification is at the heart of it.”