Why a small cannon is a such a big deal
As per tradition, U of T engineering students graduated with a bang.
On Tuesday, black-clad students wearing hard hats saluted the 1,800 new Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering graduates with shots from a mini cannon, which has been the students' mascot for generations.
“We fire it off at events to show engineers’ love for the world,” said Carlos Fiel, a student in the department of chemical engineering and applied chemistry. “It’s one of the things we do as students to show that we don’t just sit in classrooms.”
Ye Olde Mighty Skule Cannon, as it’s known, appears each year at convocations, varsity football games and, more recently, the city’s Pride parade.
Skulpedia, an encyclopedia written by engineering students and alumni, says the tradition dates back to the 1920s when students fired one of the cannons on the Hart House lawn.
U of T engineering students also bring the cannon out for other special occasions like the Toronto Pride parade (photo courtesy of Robert Goldberg)
The first miniature cannon was built by a university machinist in 1936, according to Skule lore. New models were made for special occasions, such as Canada’s centennial in 1967, or to replace a cannon that was stolen by U of T students in another faculty.
Fiel, the chemical engineering student, boasted that U of T’s cannon is one of the few engineering mascots in Canada that has never been kidnapped by students from a rival university – not for want of trying.
“From what I heard in the past, there have been funny and outlandish attempts,” he said. “There have been people who have jumped from trees in Queen’s Park to surprise us and take the cannon.”
Before firing the cannon, the engineering students notify campus police and warn people nearby to block their ears. No projectile is fired, though the ammunition remains a mystery. Fiel says the boom is produced with “paprika, mayonnaise and Game of Thrones spoilers.”
When not in use, the cannon’s location is a closely guarded secret. Its whereabouts are said to be known only to the “chief attiliator,” an engineering student entrusted to carry and fire the cannon on special occasions. As an extra precaution, the chief attiliator is accompanied by “guards,” some of whom are chained by the waist to the mini artillery.
Before graduating this week from electrical engineering, Milan Maljkovic said he once had the honour of serving as chief attiliator. The cannon embodies the sense of community shared by U of T engineering students, he said.
“Having this community behind you when you’re at your lowest points and build you back up, that transcends discipline and class year,” he said. “Everybody is there for each other.”