Concrete Canoe is thrilled to bring you “Concrete Humans vol. 3”, the first of the year, with our amazing captain Thomas Teflissi. Thomas hails from a small town of Perth (ON), where he is also affectionately known as Tom Cat. Thomas is a U2 student in his third year with the team, having previously been a member of mixing his first year and switching to hull design for the second year.
-How did you come to be the captain of the team?
In my second year in second semester they were looking for someone to take over the hull design lead for the upcoming year. Harry and I both said yes and took over hull design. We started to gain more responsibility, and with more responsibility came a lot more work and a lot more stress and even though that sounds like something you wouldn’t want as a full time engineering student from that point I was hooked. So when they needed someone to be the next team captain, and we already had two leads for hull design team, I stepped up! It’s a ton more work than I ever planned on doing, but it’s super enjoyable!
-What are some changes to the team for this year?
One big thing we are working on this year is making our design and process more environmentally sustainable. We have been in contact with Trottier Institute of Sustainable Engineering Development (TISED) for educational development, in order to learn more about different ingredients we can put into our concrete mix, how they affect the environment and how they are made. We have been working with Sustainability in Engineering at McGill (SEAM). They have assigned us a sustainability officer who works within the team to make sure our processes are environmentally sustainable. One small example is that instead of using disposable gloves while working we are using reusable gloves manufactured in a sustainable way. Small things like that make a difference. We have also been attempting to recycle old concrete as opposed to just throwing it out. Two other new areas of the team that are getting more emphasis this year is marketing and long term strategy. We are working on building a stronger team image and looking into the future to plan for the years to come, not just the current year ahead.
-Did you have any canoe related experience prior to Concrete Canoe?
I had a few experiences but there was one that stands out. Me and a friend went canoeing down rapids. I’m bad at canoeing so I wasn’t so good at keeping the canoe stable. Also she had a broken arm so she was not much better #safetyfirst. At one point in our journey down the rapids, we actually got turned around as we were about to go over a meter drop. We are going sideways and we couldn’t turn around. I was trying but I can’t canoe. She was trying but she can’t hold the paddle with two hands. So we went over them and both flipped the canoes. I don’t know why but it was my instinct to hold onto the canoe and not let go. I didn’t want to lose the canoe. The canoe did not sink and it stayed above the water and dragged me over probably a hundred meters of rapids. Meanwhile, my friend had just let go and got out of the rapids. I was pretty banged up. But on my bucket list, one day I’m going to go back to those rapids and I’m gonna show them. Me and those rapids have an unfinished history.
-To finish up, there are rumours of you conquering an active volcano, are they true?
They are true. It was pretty insane, I climbed an active volcano where we got to walk right up to this flowing lava. As you’re walking up to the lava it’s heating the air so much that it’s creating a huge wind force which is so hot it literally felt like your skin was being burned. This isn’t North America so you get to walk right up to it, there are no real rules or precautions. I could have fallen into it, I was so close, probably half a meter away. Others in the group walked right up to it with their walking sticks and stuck them right into it for just a second and it was completely gone. Just burnt right off. It was so hot everyones shoes got slightly melted on the bottom.