U of C seeks toboggan title

Ordinarily, saying you plan to ride a 300-pound concrete slab down a snow-covered hill at 80 kilometres per hour would either cause stares of incredulity or trigger someone to phone a mental institution. Luckily, the members of the University of Calgary Concrete Toboggan team are neither lying nor insane, as the team are doing just that later this week at the 32nd annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race in Montreal.

The event takes place Feb. 1-5 and requires teams to create a five-seat sled under the 300-pound weight limit, complete with braking and steering mechanisms as well as a roll-cage. Initially started by students from the U of C, University of Alberta, SAIT and NAIT, the event was originally conceived as a distinctly Canadian version of the successful concrete canoe competitions in the United States. Teams compete in a time-trial format and are allowed a combined maximum of three runs on both a straight and curved track. While speed is definitely an aim, one of the more difficult tasks is actually stopping the sled once it’s crossed the finish line.

“In the past, some teams have used a hydraulic braking system, where you stop immediately and everyone goes flying,” said concrete and mix designer Danielle Goodfellow. “It’s not the best, so we have a different system where there’s a brake at the back. We’re not sure how long it will take to stop, but it will eventually.”

The interdisciplinary event attracts upwards of 400 engineering students from universities across Canada every year and provides an opportunity for them to not only develop their skills but also make contacts within the industry and amongst their peers. Part of the event, the technical exhibit, has the teams set up a themed booth, allowing them to not only show off their own work, but see the work of others.

“Everybody gets to come around and check out what you’ve done,” said project manager Matthew Teevens. “There are a lot of industry [representatives] and professors who come by to take a look and it’s a good opportunity for students to make contact with industry professionals and with each other.”

This year, the team opted for a Royal Canadian Mounted Police theme in honour of the four officers slain in northern Alberta last year. The red-coloured sled is accompanied by a booth modelled after an early RCMP fort.

For more info, go to www.fp.ucalgary.ca/gnctr or www.gnctr.info.

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