A lot of people have heard about our club, the Concrete Toboggan, around campus before but not many really know what we do. Of course we make a toboggan out of concrete, yet if that’s all we do, why do we get funding from the MES? Why is the team comprised of thirty individuals? What part is actually concrete?
The McMaster Engineering Concrete Toboggan Team is a competitor in GNCTR, which stands for the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. GNCTR is North America’s longest running interschool engineering competition and began in 1974. Student teams from all across Canada and even the United States compete to build the best concrete toboggan. There are a variety of rules that each team need to follow: the running surface of the toboggan must be made of concrete, it must have a functional steering and braking system, and it must be able to carry five riders. The other components of the toboggan, like the frame, can be made out of any material; this past competition we used steel. Each team also has a wacky theme and gets judged on their spirit for the competition. The competing teams then venture to a host school and congregate for probably the largest group of engineering students in one place. There was 500 hundred competitors this year!
GNCTR 2019 took place in Edmonton, Alberta and McMaster sent a team of 24 members from all kinds of engineering disciplines. Prior to competition our team spent months designing and building the toboggan with support from wonderful local sponsors like Russell Metals (which is where we get our metal) and the MES where we get the majority of our funding. Design includes making an original and innovative braking and steering system, designing our very own concrete mix and pouring it for the skis, and designing a superstructure to hold the riders and keep them safe.
At the competition every team gets the chance to show off their toboggan technically as well as their team spirit through a technical exhibition, technical presentations, spirit challenges and of course, racing the toboggan. This year, McMaster came second overall in the king of the hill race competition. We all brought home two awards in Best Theoretical Toboggan and Best Braking Design as well as a top three in steering performance. Our success gave us a fourth place finish out of 21 competing schools and McMaster’s best ever results at GNCTR.