PCL Supports the 44th Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race

In true Canadian fashion, 500 engineering students hit the slopes of Waterloo, Ontario, in their carefully designed and constructed toboggans as part of the 44th Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. With 18 universities and colleges represented, the race, which took place from January 24 to 28, is one of the largest student-led engineering competitions in Canada. PCL was proud to be the event’s title sponsor for the fifth consecutive year, with several of PCL’s Canadian offices sponsoring individual teams from the University of Waterloo, University of Ottawa, University of Manitoba, University of Calgary, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). PCL was also pleased to introduce and present the inaugural safety award at the competition’s closing ceremonies.
Engineering students from the University of
Waterloo pose with their sled at the 2018 Great
Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. 

A view from the bottom of the hill, as engineering
students from across Canada get ready to race in
the 2018 Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Each year, the challenge is to design, build, and race a toboggan with a running surface made entirely of concrete. Requirements dictate that the toboggans must all weigh less than 350 pounds, maintain a protective superstructure, hold five riders, and have mechanical steering and braking systems. It’s no surprise that in their free time leading up to the event, the students dedicated hundreds of hours to the design and construction of their team toboggans.

Each team’s toboggan is judged on a variety of design categories, including concrete mix, reinforcement, steel superstructure, and mechanical systems, as well as project management and safety. To evaluate sleds according to the criteria, judges examine technical reports and presentations provided by each team, and toboggans are also judged by their performance in the drag, slalom, and King of the Hill races.

“The passion and enthusiasm displayed by these students at the technical exhibit is truly second to none. They are dedicated, hardworking, team players that I would love to work with one day,” says Mark Henderson, project manager with PCL Toronto, who was honored to act as a judge at the event and share the students’ successes. 

BUILDING BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

Scott Klinger, PCL field coordinator, headed this year’s GNCTR 2018 organizing committee, which oversees the entire competition. Once captain of Waterloo’s GNCTR team during his undergrad years, Scott is very familiar with the event’s benefits.

“GNCTR is a phenomenal opportunity for undergraduate students to develop technical and soft skills, which are beneficial for applying classroom knowledge and developing skillsets to future careers. Team members can apply technical engineering design concepts to a real project, one that must go through the entire process from design to construction to racing. It also fosters project management skills like scheduling, budgeting, leadership, and teamwork, all of which are important for the project and their future careers in the construction management or engineering industries,” says Scott Klinger.

According to Mitch Soetaert, PCL operations manager and one of this year’s GNCTR judges, the Waterloo organizing committee set the bar high by establishing, communicating, and enforcing stringent safety and design standards at the event.

“As usual, students rose to the challenge. Safety inspections went smoothly, as expectations were set and met. The weather conditions on race day provided challenges that some teams could handle better than others. The most successful teams had good plans and kept things simple. Many moving parts make for many possible problems. We will see a lot of energy and innovation from this group as they enter the workforce,” says Mitch Soetaert.​​​​​​
 

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