SAIT Club aims to cement their victory
A little-known SAIT tradition is the designing, building, and racing of a toboggan made mostly of concrete.
From nothing, each year, different engineering programs collaborate and conjure up a downhill speed demon to race in the January Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR) engineering competition.
Anthony Lok is the vice president of communications for the GNCTR SAIT toboggan club. He detailed the process as an outlet for innovation, creation and teamwork.
“It’s a cool and creative way to network,” explained Lok.
“Moreover, a good way to learn how to manage projects, meet deadlines, critically think and gain a hands-on education.”
The competition consists of four different parts: competing schools sending their toboggans with a crew of five down a track, a brake test to find out which team has designed the most effective brakes, a zigzag slalom course for steering accuracy and an award for the best concrete design.
Each participating school has to present a display illustrating the team’s submission. In addition to this, teams must showcase a prepared skit, and are expected to remain in their themed costumes for the entirety of the competition. For the effort, teams may be credited a prize called The Spirit Award.
Last year, the SAIT team chose Transformers, and the resulting costumes were morph suits in homemade cardboard cars.
“If one of them fell down, they would need to be helped back up,” Lok laughs.
This year the team will be Top Gun themed, and a potential name is Ski-Force One.
“We are looking at getting aviators and jump suits.”
Many of the schools competing are four-year engineering degree programs, compared to SAIT’s two-year diploma. Consistent contenders include the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia.
“Last year we ended up coming in fourth place out of the 23 competing universities.
“Kind of a way to show that our technical skills might be better then theirs.”
The GNCTR competition has been going steady since the 1970s, but it is only in the past three years that SAIT has proven to be a concrete toboggan force.
“We [reached] 62 kilometers an hour, and I have heard of teams in the past of going up to 80 kilometers an hour,” said Lok.
SAIT had especially excelled last year in the King of the Hill race and breaking tests, finishing second.
The toboggan is divided up into different parts; an appropriate program handles each part.
The Mechanical Engineer Technology (MET) program designs and builds a frame and structure for the toboggan. Civil Engineering Technology (CVT) design form and pour concrete skis for the toboggan’s running surface. Engineering Design and Draft Technology (EDDT), Architectural Technologies (AT) and Project Management work on the designing and drafting of the display as well as the shipping container that will house the sled and display.
The GNCTR SAIT toboggan club won SAITSA club of the year because of its effective diverse cooperation with different programs.
“It gives us an outlet to go outside the box and do things that maybe I haven’t done before like a recycled concrete design,” said Lok.
The CVT’s are experimenting with using recycled concrete for the base of this year’s concrete design.
Instead of using a standard concrete mixture, the ingredients are assembled by the team, like the recipe a baker might use when creating a cake.
“Our first test with the recycled concrete was not so good,” said Lok. “It was substantially below the strength that we were looking for, but I think we have it worked out.
“We will continue to play with the percentages until we get something that we can actually work with.”
“We try to be super innovative with it—it’s fun,” said Denika Raposo, spirit coordinator of the GNCTR SAIT toboggan club.
“We get taught how things were done in the past, then we can think how to build upon it for the future.”
Raposo has found the club, and its unique mission, to be a perfect way to find others with aligned interests.
“It’s an optional thing, we all chose this group and we all want to be a part of it.”
“It makes [the club] a lot better because you know that everyone here is just as excited about [the toboggan] as you are.”
The connections students make in the club is a powerful way to connect in the engineering industry. The competition itself is littered with industry professionals, and job offers have been given to those who can set themselves apart.
“The two captains, Krisztian Kispal and Niki Kolskog from last year, were able to utilize their new skills and were able to learn how to network better.
“Those connections with industry and the more refined professional soft skills allowed both to acquire employment from their work on the toboggan team,” informed Milan Niksic, SAIT CVT instructor and proponent of SAIT’s involvement in the competition.
Niksic hopes one day SAIT’s involvement will span larger than the engineering programs currently involved and will become a SAIT wide campus event.
“We can beat the 20 plus four-year engineering programs with our practical technical approach to design and engineering.
“Like any team at SAIT it could be just as big as hockey or volleyball––a true showcase of students skills and instructors knowledge at SAIT.
“I truly believe I am so lucky to be a teacher, to be part of the team each year and involved in GNCTR SAIT toboggan club.” Undertaking the toboggan task comes with a cost, as last year the club had to crowd source $25,000 to compete. This year, however, will be considerably more.
As this year’s competition is being held in Ottawa, the club must raise an additional flight cost.
“We are entirely crowed funded; we are looking for sponsors,” said Raposo.
There are 30 members in the club, but if not enough funds are raised, the club will have to look at sending less people to the competition.
If less people go, the team may not be able to effectively react on the fly if anything unexpected happens.
“A lot of [club members] say that it is the highlight of their time at school.
“When you’re not doing your school work, you’re talking about the toboggan.”