place in ISTORY Ryan Cusveller stood atop a hill in London, Ont., under a grey sky in late January, surveying the slope in front of him. It was a little after 2 p.m. and it had been snowing for hours—that wet, heavy snow of southern Ontario. There was no way to tell how it would affect the running ability of his sled, built and tested as it was in the dry, powdery conditions of central Alberta. But if Cusveller harboured any serious concerns, it was hard to tell by looking at him—he was wearing a cow costume, after all.
Photography: Richard Cairney
A fourth-year civil engineering student at the U of A, Cusveller was the co-captain of a team of 30 mostly engineering students, all of whom had travelled to Western University, 2014 host of the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. The team was competing in the 40th anniversary of the GNCTR, a three-day weekend that comprised several competitive events. This particular event was called King of the Hill and it pitted two costumed teams against each other in a kind of drag race of custom-designed and -built five-person sleds. Each toboggan could weigh no more than 300 pounds (about 135 kilograms) and had to have concrete in contact with the snow at all times. And each had to have a functional steering and brake system. Rules permitted two sled pushers, but no part of them could cross the start line once the sled was in motion. Cusveller eyed his competitors, sizing up not just their sled but the crew. From UBC Okanagan, the opponents were a tough-
looking team, which not even their monkey costumes—complete with ears, tails and onesies—could hide. Never mind. Those monkeys were no match for Cusveller and the U of A’s Alberta Beef team. Cusveller straightened his own tail and squared his shoulders, ready for battle. At the official signal, the Alberta Beef pushers, Dylan Bolch (materials engineering) and Steven Duncan (a grad student in mining engineering) started the sled in motion. Things were looking good, but as the pushers readied to let loose, disaster struck: Bolch tripped on his tail and sprawled across the start line. The team was disqualified immediately for the infraction. Fortunately, King of the Hill was just one of 21 events on which industry professionals judged teams. Cusveller and his colleagues swept seven of the categories, coming in as the winningest team and taking home the grand title. Cusveller’s team excelled in the areas that matter to engineers: innovative design,
Left: the 2014 team takes its sled on a test run. Top: the 2011 team cheers for the cameras. U of A Engineer Spring 2014 17
Publication for University of Alberta Engineering Alumni. Spring 2014 issue.