WETT’s concrete toboggan hits the slopes in Calgary Feb. 8-12

Engineering News | February 6, 2012
By Heather Travis

Racing down the side of a ski hill on a concrete toboggan isn’t easy, but the design challenge has the Western Engineering Toboggan Team (WETT) excited to put their ideas to the test.

WETT unveiled its design last month for the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR) 2012, held in Calgary, Alta. Feb. 8-12. Using a colourful birthday theme, the team of about 35 showed off what they hope will give them an edge on the slopes.

The GNCTR is Canada’s longest running engineering competition. Three team members, Brad Coutu, Mike MacEacheron and Robert Volcko, will be blogging about their experience at the race on Western Engineering’s ‘What WE have to say’ blog. Follow their progress at http://atwestern.typepad.com/westerneng/.

“This year we decided to go with (concrete) skis,” said MacEacheron, team project manager, noting the team learned from past mistakes.

The skis on the toboggan resemble that of a GT Sno-Racer to allow front ski steering. Since they will not be on a slalom course, “we really are just trying to keep our sled straight,” he explains.

Last year, the design included a concrete slab running surface, which caused problems during the race and the team had trouble keeping the sled straight. By using skis instead – which also meant less concrete – the team was able to put its weight in other places. Overall, the sled must weigh less than 300 lbs. (136 kg).

The sled must have working braking and steering systems and be fitted with a roll bar to protect its five passengers.

Working on the toboggan became a lesson in fundamentals for the team, as they made all their own cuts and did their own welding to form the carbon steel frame.

“It’s something we are proud of – doing all of the fabrication in-house,” says Charles (CJ) Vitanza, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student.

The students also amended the design of the braking system to allow for snow to be forced through a channel, which reduces forces on the toboggan.

Sustainability was a strong focus of this year’s event. From reusing the crate to ship the toboggan to the materials used in the design (including a concrete mix of portland cement, fly ash and latex paint), sustainability was always a top priority.

The overall toboggan and shipping crate are painted in bright hues to highlight the birthday theme. Once the toboggan is unpacked, the walls of the crate will become part the technical exhibition, during which the students present the technical aspects of their designs while dressed in themed costumes.

The team will face off against other Canadian engineering students at Canada Olympic Park on Saturday, Feb. 11.

In 2010, the team placed second for the technical report and in 2008, they won best steering and most spectacular run.

Information about WETT is available at http://www.eng.uwo.ca/wett/.

For more information on the GNCTR, visit: http://gnctr2012.com/.



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.: Allison Stevenson
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