Ladysmith Secondary School graduate Trevor Burton (centre) is pictured here with some fellow members of the winning University of Toronto concrete toboggan team.

Ladysmith Secondary School graduate Trevor Burton (centre) is pictured here with some fellow members of the winning University of Toronto concrete toboggan team.

Ladysmith grad helps U of T win concrete toboggan race

Ladysmith Secondary School graduate Trevor Burton was a member of the engineering team that built the best performing toboggan.

A former Ladysmith student helped the University of Toronto’s concrete toboggan team finish on top in a recent race on the Lower Mainland.

Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) graduate Trevor Burton was a member of the University of Toronto (U of T) engineering team that built the best performing toboggan at the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race (GNCTR), which was organized in late January by the University of British Columbia.

More than 400 students from 21 Canadian engineering programs were involved in the 39th annual competition, held this year on Mt. Seymour.

The GNCTR is an annual engineering competition hosted by a Canadian university each winter, which brings together students from the top engineering programs across the country.

The basic premise of the competition is to build a toboggan with a concrete running surface, load it with five teammates, and race it down a snowy hill as quickly as possible. This tests students on their technical knowledge of materials and structures, teaches them to work with concrete, and develops their ability to work as a team. Universities compete in several judged categories, such as shortest race time, best overall design, best team spirit and best overall team.

It was a friendly, fun event, the culmination of hundreds of hours of work and some steep learning curves for the design teams.

According to the rules, the toboggans must have a running surface made entirely of concrete, a protective superstructure, and braking and steering systems, but cannot exceed 300 pounds (135 kilograms). As a result, the design stage includes structural analysis and rigorous material testing to produce the fastest, safest and lightest sled capable of carrying five team members down the slope at speeds that some years reach 70 kilometres per hour.

Burton oversaw the design and construction of the braking, steering and safety components of U of T’s concrete toboggan.

Many teams, including U of T, lost control on their first run down the slope and crashed into the protective snow banks.

However, U of T completed its second run successfully and went on to take silver in the giant slalom race and gold for the shortest braking distance, enabling the team to win best overall performance on the day.

The U of T toboggan also did well at the public technical exhibition held the previous day at Canada Place, where a panel of professional engineers judged the creativity and design features of the 21 projects.

Burton is no stranger to success. At LSS , he won the Governor General’s Academic Bronze Medal as the top Grade 12 student and gained a full scholarship to U of T, where he is studying mechanical engineering.

— Submitted