Kelowna students leave for downhill challenge

Kelowna students leave for downhill challenge

A group of students from UBCO is ready for annual concrete toboggan race

For a particular group of engineering students, when things go rapidly downhill it’s actually a good thing.

A team of students with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering are heading to Ontario this week to compete in the 44th annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR). The idea is to race a toboggan, made mostly of concrete, down a slope a quickly as possible.

In 2018, UBC Okanagan’s entry to the GNCTR is a completely new concept. This year’s team elected to change everything from the sled’s shape, skis and braking systems.

The team is especially excited about the new rack-and-pinion steering system and an innovative design that uses a brake lever in the sled that drops adjustable braking blades, explains team president Danielle Kennedy.

“We think it will be a good year. Test day is always a good indication of how the event will go and we had no issues,” she said. “Development and building process takes about 11 months. Everything culminated with successful test runs at Big White in early January.”

The steel frame along with the siding, steering, skis and braking system weighs 350 pounds and carries five riders. A 30-person contingent, primarily civil and mechanical engineering students, along with some science students, is looking to improve on the team’s second-place finishes in 2014 and 2015. They are heading to Ontario for the three-day event hosted this year by the University of Waterloo.

UBC Okanagan has had good success in the GNCTR, and hosted the event in January 2015 winning several prizes.

Following last year’s race, the team thoroughly reviewed their winning designs from past competitions and decided on a new design that they hope will continue their success in the medal rounds.

“We start the design process a week or two after returning from the competition,” says Kennedy. “Then triple-check our geometry while combining the components; with construction starting in earnest in September.”

Unlike some teams in the international competition, the UBC Okanagan sled is entirely designed and built by students, staff and faculty in the School of Engineering.

“We really appreciate the support and assistance the technicians from the School of Engineering provide to us,” says Kennedy. “They are always psyched to help and make the process really efficient and smooth.”

The 2018 Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race Competition starts January 24. For news about the team and its results visit and

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