Home snow

Sep 29th, 2023

By Jackey Locke

Engineering student Shaylin Hurtubise says she has been “obsessed” with the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race for the past two years.

It’s a good thing, then, that Atlantic Canadian university engineering students will gather in Newfoundland and Labrador this winter when Memorial University hosts the 2024 event – a first for an Atlantic Canadian province and the competition’s 50th anniversary, no less.

“To be able to show my family and friends where all my free time has gone will be super rewarding,” said Ms. Hurtubise, who is in her fourth year of the civil engineering program in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial. “It’s going to be very exciting to witness the first concrete toboggan competition in Atlantic Canada, welcome all our friends to the province and hopefully defend our home-snow.”

With 131 days to go, Memorial’s team is well into prep mode.

The Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race will run from Feb. 711, 2024.

The technical exhibit will take place in St. John's on Feb 9; the race will take place at White Hills Ski Resort in Clarenville on Feb 10.

Fifty years and running

Memorial engineering students have competed in the race for decades.

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science alumna Carly Boyle (B.Eng.’20) is one of the event organizers.

She says the organizing team decided to submit a bid to host the event because they all had great experiences going to the competition during their university years.

They also wanted to highlight Memorial University and St. John’s.

“We have been approached by other teams in the past asking us to host because they wanted the opportunity to visit Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Ms. Boyle. “While it usually takes a few failed bids before a team is awarded, we got it on the first try, which is a testament to the allure of our province and our culture.”

A Memorial and N.L. first

The race is the oldest and largest student-run engineering competition in Canada.

It challenges students to design, build and safely race toboggans with a running surface made entirely of concrete.

Competing teams are tasked with designing and building a toboggan with steering and braking that can carry five people down a hill.

The concrete skis, metal roll cage and steering and braking systems must all weigh less than 350 pounds.

Hosting the event is particularly special for 2024 MUN Concrete Toboggan Team, as it is the first Memorial team to compete on “home snow.”

Riley Burt is a fourth-year process engineering student and Ms. Hurtubise’s co-captain.

Mr. Burt says he is “ecstatic” to be competing in front of family and friends.

“Being one of the newer teams in this competition, Memorial often gets overlooked as one of the front-runners to win the competition,” he said. “However, after an impressive third-place finish last year in Kelowna, I feel we gained a lot of respect from the other teams.

“Our goal for 2024 is to improve our toboggan design from a technical standpoint and place in the top five schools overall,” he continued. “With the competition right around the corner, the team will be working extra hard to design and construct our toboggan so it is ready to hit the slopes in February.”

Meaningful learning experience
Dr. Amgad Hussein is the faculty advisor for the Memorial team and the 2024 competition’s organizing committee.

He says he is proud of the fact that this is the first time the national event is being held in Atlantic Canada.

“These kinds of challenges provide lasting and meaningful learning experiences for the. students,” said Dr. Hussein. “The organizing team has also been working very diligently for a while now. Their efforts reflect the commitment of our alumni to their alma mater, which is a trait of our graduates.”

Members of the organizing committee encourage engineering students to volunteer for events and to head out to White Hills in February to watch the races and support Team Memorial.