WETT nabs two first-place finishes at GNCTR 2015

Mack Atkinson and Mike Nuttal

Western Engineering News | February 2, 2015

By Jason Teakle

The Western Engineering Concrete Toboggan Team (WETT) returned from the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race 2015 (GNCTR 2015) after nabbing two first-place finishes in toboggan design and structure during the annual competition.

The WETT team received first-place prizes in Best Superstructure and Most Original/Innovative Design at GNCTR 2015, held at Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, B.C. from January 21-25. The team also received second-place in Concrete Reinforcement, and third-place finishes in Concrete Mix Design and Sustainability.

WETT co-captain Mack Atkinson said the vibe at GNCTR 2015 was surreal and that the team’s lingering mechanical issues with its toboggan were thankfully fixed by the time it hit the hill.

“The atmosphere at GNCTR was electric,” Atkinson said. “Our most exciting moment from our time out west was the first time our toboggan went down the hill and our hydraulic steering worked.

“We had issues with it during testing, which required us to perform a lot of last- minute troubleshooting before shipping the toboggan. It was great to see the hydraulics actuate and the skis tilt, as this helped us manoeuvre through the course.”

WETT co-captain Mike Nuttal said participating in the challenge of designing and constructing the toboggan – and competing in GNCTR 2015 – provided WETT with an opportunity to hone many essential engineering skills.

“People should know the incredible variety of skills you can gain by being a part of WETT,” noted Nuttal. “Constructing something as difficult as a concrete toboggan always comes with its obstacles, so learning to problem-solve is one of the best skills I have gained from the experience.

“There is no tutorial on how to build a concrete toboggan. For example, we used a hydraulic system to pitch our skis to steer our toboggan this year. Nobody had done this before, but you can make it as simple or complicated as the team wants.”

The opportunity to meet other engineering students from across Canada while participating in such a fast-paced competition like GNCTR, allowed for an exciting trip for WETT, said Nuttal.

“GNCTR is the coolest, non-stop schedule and the constant high-energy environment leaves you exhausted after five days,” Nuttal said. “Every school is excited to be there, meeting fellow engineers who also spent the bulk of the first semester building concrete toboggans.”

Atkinson has words of advice for engineering students who may consider joining WETT and competing in GNCTR 2016 and beyond.

“The most important things about WETT and GNCTR are to come in with an open mind and be prepared to learn new things in a very laid-back atmosphere,” explained Atkinson. “Our team is so successful due to how friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and eager all of our members are during the year and at GNCTR.”

Atkinson said each concrete toboggan team is in it to win it at GNCTR, but rivals are always willing to assist teams having toboggan-engineering issues.

“Though GNCTR is a competition where teams want to best represent their schools, they will go out of their way to help other teams with any issues they run into during the competition,” he said. “This goes to show how awesome this competition really is.”