Engineering students from across Canada race downhill for annual concrete toboggan race

Hundreds of engineer students from 18 universities across Canada are trying out their concrete toboggans at the 44th Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race in Chicopee Tube Park in Kitchener on Saturday.

The competition asks engineering students to design and build a toboggan with concrete runners

500 engineering students from 18 universities and colleges across Canada and one from the United States raced their built concrete toboggans downhill in Chicopee Tube Park in Kitchener for the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

Hundreds of engineering students across Canada spent months designing and building concrete toboggans for the 44th Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race on Saturday.

Students from 18 universities and colleges across Canada, and one university from the U.S., raced downhill Saturday at Chicopee Tube Park in Kitchener, Ont. 

"We all come together and have a great time and see different aspects of design and what different schools are doing and push the walls of innovation," said Russell Giles, team captain for the University of Waterloo's Mighty Geese.

The race is one of the largest student-led engineering competitions in Canada, which dates back to 1975. Teams are challenged to design and build their own toboggans that slide using concrete skis.

For the competition, all toboggans need to have fully functional braking and steering systems, weigh less than 150 kg, and be able to handle an impact at 80 km/h.

Students took part Saturday in three race challenges called Drag Race, Slalom, and King of the Hill, where teams were judged in speed and control of the toboggan.

A team member of University of Waterloo's Mighty Geese seen working on their concrete toboggan as one of their concrete ski cracked in the middle after the second race. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

Fixes and modifications

However, Saturday's weather was not in favour of the students and their concrete toboggans, as the snow was slushy, causing some toboggans to get stuck.

"We noticed the runners on the bottom of our skis was digging a little bit deep and we think it's because its not super cold so it's a bit slushy," said Molly Noseworthy from Memorial University in Newfoundland, who is competing for the first time.

Noseworthy said she and her team made modifications to their toboggan to slightly lift the tips of the concrete skis for better glide.

Giles and the Mighty Geese faced similar problems that led one of their concrete skis to crack down the middle. Giles said he and his team replaced the broken ski with a backup to continue with the competition.

Teams take their toboggans to the top of the hill in Chicopee and are judged in speed, control, steering and braking while they make their way down hill. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)