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Victory set in stone

SAIT’s Great Northern Concrete Toboggan team poses for a picture after winning gold.

SAIT won gold this past weekend at the renowned Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race in Waterloo, ON.

Three decades removed from its last championship, SAIT is back on top after winning gold this past weekend at the renowned Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race.

The 27-person contingent beat out 22 other post-secondary schools from across Canada at the competition in Waterloo, ON, which challenges teams to design and build a concrete toboggan that takes five riders safely down a hill.

"To realize that we've done something that no one else has done in our lifetimes, it's just breathtaking," says team president Abigail Watt.

SAIT — which co-founded the annual event with the University of Calgary, University of Alberta and NAIT — previously won gold in 1974 and 1986.

Steep competition

Teams were judged on toboggan design, reports and presentations, race performance, safety and team spirit. SAIT's team was singled out for its braking system, safety, structural design and overall team spirit.

"I'm extremely proud of our students," says Jim Szautner, Dean, School of Manufacturing and Automation, who had challenged this year's team to finish in the top three. "They proved that they can compete and win.

"It speaks volumes to the quality of our graduates. It also shows the quality of our faculty support."

SAIT's team is primarily comprised of students in two-year technology programs, compared with other post-secondary schools that showcase their four-year engineering programs, he adds.

Watt says winning over this field of competitors — against eight of Canada's top 10 engineering programs — is a testament to SAIT's education.

"It shows that SAIT's education is not only as good as we thought when we signed up, but it's even better," says the second-year mechanical engineering technology student.

Szautner says the overall standings — with SAIT finishing first, followed by the University of Calgary in second place — reflect the quality of local talent.

"This shows that we produce top-end, world-class talent from our institutions here in Calgary," he says.

Putting it all together

SAIT's team had members from multiple disciplines, including mechanical engineering, architectural technologies and financial services. It also involved collaboration between the School of Construction, School of Manufacturing and Automation, and Applied Research and Innovation (ARIS), among others.

"This year, the chemistry on the team was absolutely amazing," says Watt. "To have that cross-training was really valuable, especially to the newer team members."

Ben Ellard, faculty advisor for promotion and sponsorship, says the team worked together to focus on safety, technical presentation and their team spirit — and that paid off.

"We won each of these categories for the competition."

SAIT support

Milan Niksic, faculty advisor and chairman of the team who has been involved with the race for five years, is proud to see the team accomplish its goal.

"It means a lot to me to help them by giving them the opportunity, support and resources they need to succeed," says the civil engineering instructor. "It really changes them as professionals, in their personal lives. And, as advisors, it impacts us the same way.

"Students are who we teach, but originals are what we produce."