Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR).

Article by 25708 OCdt Everitt and 25914 OCdt Lee

This past week 8 Officer Cadets from the Civil Engineering Department at the Royal Military College in Kingston were provided with the opportunity to compete in the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR). GNCTR is an annual engineering competition hosted by a Canadian University and held every winter. The first competition took place in 1974 in Red Deer, Alberta and since then RMC has competed numerous times. The competition this year took place in Vancouver, BC and brought together over 450 students from the top engineering programs across the country.

The basic premise of the competition is to build a toboggan with a concrete running surface, load it with five teammates, and race it down a snowy hill as quickly as possible. This tests engineering students on their technical knowledge of materials and structures, teaches them to work with concrete, and develops their ability to work as a team. Universities compete in several judged categories, such as shortest race time, best overall design, best team spirit, and the coveted best overall team.

In order to qualify for competition, the toboggan must undergo and pass a safety inspection. There are five basic rules that govern the design of each toboggan registered in GNCTR:

  1. The running surface must be made entirely of concrete.
  2. The toboggan must carry five people safely.
  3. The toboggan must have a safety rollover bar.
  4. The toboggan must have a braking and steering system.
  5. The toboggan must weigh less than 300lbs excluding riders

RMC 2013 GNCTR Team

RMC’s 2013 GNCTR Team comprised of the following:

OCdt Balazova, 25181
OCdt Bennett, 25673
OCdt Burgos, 25835
NCdt Cousins, 25797
OCdt Cusan, 25743
OCdt Everitt, 25708
OCdt Lee, 25914
OCdt Raeburn-Gibson, 25755
Capt. Douglas (Escort Officer),  23913

Plans and construction for the toboggan began last fall with countless hours dedicated to construction in the Civil Engineering Structures Lab. The RMC toboggan consisted of a 2 ski design (each a 1” thick reinforced concrete slab), an aluminum roll cage, and a steel break system.  The hands-on benefits of not only planning and designing, but constructing an engineering project were extremely valuable. Problems that arose during construction allowed for students to problem-solve with unique methods not encountered previously during their education and gave them an enriched educational and engineering experience.

In an effort to meet these criteria, the team underwent a crucial preliminary design process, whereby multiple drawings and ideas were established in order to achieve the results wanted. The preliminary design process consisted of designing the concrete slabs, superstructure, braking system, and steering system. Multiple computer-based engineering software, such as SAP2000, SolidWorks and AutoCAD, were used in order calculate the toboggan’s specific technical characteristics for its construction phase. Once the preliminary design was complete, the first step in the difficult construction phase was to build the reinforcements of the concrete slabs. After the two sets of steel reinforcements were built and welded, a steering system was incorporated into the concrete slabs before pouring the concrete in the forms to cure for 28 days to reach its ultimate strength. The next process would be the longest, as the superstructure of the toboggan would be made of aluminum. These aluminum pipes were bent, cut, and welded in order to produce a fine superstructure to safely protect the students in the case of the toboggan rolling. The next challenge would be to construct a steel braking system which would have to fit at the back of the toboggan and stop the toboggan as quickly as possible on race day. Although multiple changes were made during the construction phase from the original preliminary design, the final product was a toboggan well-equipped to take on the 22 other universities on the slopes.

Upon arriving in Vancouver the team was able to meet with the Vancouver Branch of the RMC Ex-Cadet Club and share in pizza and refreshments. This was a unique experience in which the cadets were able to meet and revel in old stories. The team is very thankful for the Branch’s hospitality. The RMC Foundation completely funded this trip, which allowed it to go forward and for this the team is also extremely thankful.

Anthony Everitt (25708), Jim Reith (9835), and Jaemok Lee (25914) share a good time

The week and competition comprised of Opening Ceremonies, a Technical Exhibition and the much awaited race day. When the RMC team was introduced during the opening, the whole competition gave a standing ovation and sang “O Canada”. It was a heartfelt gesture which showed the friendly spirit that existed amongst all teams.  The Technical Exhibition was a daylong event in which teams set up a complete display. Teams were able to go around, see how other universities had constructed their toboggan, and gain ideas for next year. Finally the judges came around and judged each toboggan in several categories.

Taylor Raeburn-Gibson (25755) references technical data while presenting to the judges

When Race Day finally arrived teams had to wait for the fog to lift before the runs could begin. The race took place at Mt. Seymour in Vancouver, BC. Due to the nature of the West Coast snow, many teams had issues starting or even making it down the hill due to the nature of their concrete slab design. RMC took to the slope and completed two successful runs down the hill.

Prior to the awards ceremony the team was able to go skiing and snowboarding at Whistler-Blackcomb for a day. The team was fortunate to be accompanied by Ken Tanner (10323) and his wife, Carol, for the day on the slopes.

At the awards ceremony RMC made it to the podium for several awards and placed in the following categories:

–          3rd for Concrete Reinforcement

–          3rd for Fastest Toboggan

–          3rd for Most Spectacular Race

–          1st for Superstructure Design

–          1st for Most Original Toboggan
Stacey Cusan (25743) and Jaemok Lee (25914) receiving an award at the closing ceremonies

The success of RMC’s 2013 GNCTR Team could not have been possible without the assistance of the following persons: Mr. Clarence McEwen, Mrs. Danielle Grondin, Dr. P. Heffernan, Dr. M. Tetreault, and the man we couldn’t have done it without: Mr. Dexter Gaskin. Thank you! The team wishes to express their profound thanks to the Civil Engineering Department at RMC, the RMC Foundation, and to the GNCTR 2013 committee who made the entire experience a memorable one.

One Comment

  • Andrew MacDonald (23489)

    February 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Congrats to the RMC GNCTR team this year, good standings overall. 1st in superstructure design and most original toboggan, those are good categories to win. I am happy that RMC and the RMC club has been able to keep a GNCTR team going since our very surprising 2006 Best overall team and fastest toboggan (we had no expectations of winning given construction cost of $400, compared to $20k for Waterloo, and the design we were going for in the words of Robie Gourd [now a Sqn Comd at RMC] was “simple and cheap.. but functional”). Dexter Gaskin was a huge help for us in 2006, I’m glad he is still involved with the team in 2013. He’s definitely a great tech to work within the Civil Engineering lab with a strong dedication to the learning of the students in the department. Accolades also goes to Dexter for his dedicated support to the RMC cadets.