RRC wins national concrete toboggan race

Haley Hayward, CONTRIBUTOR

The Red River College Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race team competed at the College Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race on Feb. 11, 2017. SUPPLIED/ Paul Zlobicki

Ready, set, race in a concrete toboggan.

Red River College’s team for the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR) won an award for the best steering design on Feb. 11 at Adrenaline Adventures.

The race is an annual, national engineering competition. According to the GNCTR website, it started in 1975 and is the largest student-run engineering competition in Canada. More than 450 students from engineering programs all over Canada and parts of the United States participate each year. Canadian universities take turns hosting the competition. This year the University of Manitoba hosted it.

Derek Ross, a former mechanical engineering technology student at RRC, designed the award winning, electric steer-by-wire concept. Ross invented the design, and two other team members, Jordan Isaac and Michael Hicks, helped him make it.

“I think everybody’s initial thought is, ‘How does a concrete sled work?’” said Ross.

The steering design used electric actuators with a joystick to control the sled.

“It was the first time [this design] had ever been seen at the competition,” said Ross.

The electrical actuator is what helps control and move the sled. It needs a signal and a source of energy to work. In this case, the source of energy is electrical.

RRC’s sled was made of multiple materials. The running surface was made out of concrete, the frame was made out of aluminum, and the braking system was made out of steel.

The team started their sled design last summer. Their final design was finalized over a few weeks in November 2016. The team said this was not an easy process. There were many things they had to consider.

“Weight was kind of the biggest [concern],” said Paul Zlobicki, the captain of the college’s GNCTR team and a student in the civil engineering technology program.

The team competed at last year’s GNCTR in Ottawa, but their sled was almost over the weight limit of 350 pounds. This year they improved the design to be 20 pounds under the limit.

The dimensions of the sled were also very important, the team said. The sled had to be big enough to hold all of the riders.

“You have to be able to fit five riders on the sled,” said Zlobicki.

Ross explains the lowest temperature the sled could run in was -26 C.

“We had to take into consideration what the temperature would be like in Winnipeg in February,” said Ross.

Ross said he’s very happy with the success of his steering design.

“It was very rewarding after putting in all the effort that I did, after all the long nights.”

The steering design was Ross’s final project for his two-and-a-half-year program of mechanical engineering technology. He had four months, starting in September of 2016, to complete the project. He has recently graduated and is now a mechanical engineering technologist.