Test run; Millwrights make wheelchair-accessible bobsled for Cook’s Quest event

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on February 15, 2013
Mike Johnson, seated in wheelchair, and millwright student Stephan Caines take The Spider, a bobsled designed and built by the College of the North Atlantic millwright class, for a test run Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Johnson will drive The Spider in Sunday’s Cook’s Quest bobsled races as part of Corner Brook Winter Carnival.

Gary Kean

CORNER BROOK — First they built him a contraption so he could remove snow from his driveway. Now millwright students have constructed a special bobsled so Mike Johnson can take part in the Cook’s Quest bobsled races this Sunday.

A spinal injury Johnson suffered in a car accident three years ago left him needing a wheelchair to get around.

Earlier this winter, the millwright students at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook rigged up a snowblower to a sleigh for Johnson. The bobsled project was actually started before that.

On Thursday, the class took Johnson and The Spider for a test run on the water tower road off Lundrigan Drive. The snow was soft and the going was a bit slow for Johnson.

“I’d like to hook the snowblower up to it, for propulsion purposes,” Johnson joked.

On Sunday, The Spider — so named because of  the sled’s curved metal bars resembling a spider’s legs — will race in the third annual Cook’s Quest, a homemade bobsled race introduced as a Corner Brook Winter Carnival event in 2011.

“I hope it’s -20 (degrees) out,” said Johnson, figuring a cold day and an icier track will mean a faster race.

After Thursday’s test run, the class took The Spider back to the shop for some fine-tuning.

“We need to perfect the sliding so she doesn’t drift too much,” said Johnson. “She has a pretty flat bottom like a snowboard and needs a deeper keel on the skis.”

The Spider, which will be push-started by one of the millwrights, wasn’t the only two-person bobsled being tested by classes from the Corner Brook campus Thursday. The millwrights have also constructed a sled from a full-sized bed, and have modified their airplane entry from last year’s Cook’s Quest.

The school’s welding class, with their student desk and chair sled, were also out for a test slide on the steep access road Thursday.

Jerry Smith said it’s wonderful to see the students not only put their skills to practical use, but to also show off their creative side and ingenuity.

“If more employers could see what these students are doing, it would be a beautiful thing,” said Smith. “We need to be out there, showing what we can do.”

The Cook’s Quest bobsled races will take place on the lower section of Corporal Pinksen Memorial Drive from noon to 2 p.m. According to event organizers, at least 14 entries will be racing this year.