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.
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
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
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
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