Kael Rail: Ultralight solar bike rail project


Being involved with the ATA (ReNew’s publisher) is something that brings great variety and enjoyment. A great example of this was a chance phone call with Danielle and her seven-year-old daughter Kael. Doug Rolfe explains.

Seven-year old Kael had an idea for her local school science competition, but working out if the idea was realistic was proving a problem. After all, where do you go to ask about solar-powered trains for transporting kids with bikes to school?

Queensland Rail did their best to help with information about their electric rolling stock, but the scale of the average locomotive and standard carriages was well beyond what Kael was thinking of.

Happily, someone put Danielle, Kael’s mum, onto the ATA. We quickly saw that Kael’s idea had merit and pooled our office expertise to help find existing projects worldwide. Our local experience with Melbourne trams and custom electric vehicles also proved helpful.

After some help in understanding the rough energy requirements, Kael was able to finish her research and complete her project.


A few weeks later, we got the exciting news— after receiving a highly commended award at Mudgeeraba Creek State School, Kael had won first place in the Year 2 and 3 division of the Griffith University Gold Coast Schools Science Competition in the Environmental Action Project section. Of course, Kael was most excited by the prize of an iTunes voucher:”You can download games!”

This success also meant that Kael’s project was automatically entered in the science competition run by the Science Teachers Association of Queensland. After some nervous days, Danielle received word that Kael had to attend as she had won a prize.

In the end, Kael’s project won her first prize in her division in the Queensland event. Mudgeeraba Creek State School won the prize for best overall school—they received 21 prizes from their 31 entries, including the Queensland Science Student of the Year!

What gave Kael the idea? 

Kael says: “We love our school, which is why we travel the extra distance. I have always wanted to ride my bike to school. But Mum and Dad say it’s too dangerous and there are places without bike paths. We do have electric trains, but not near us. I like riding my bike and I’m getting really fast. At school, we were looking at how we use energy in our lives. So then I thought of a solar-powered bike rail. Solar is free energy from the sun and no pollution.”

Danielle, Kael’s mum, says that the local roads are a big traffic area during school times. Some mornings it can take 40 minutes to do what’s usually a seven-minute drive. The high concentration of schools in the area means that a local public transport option would be quite desirable.

Kael says, “We wanted it [the railway] along the road, but it would make the road more crowded. Then we decided to have it away from the traffic.”

Kael worked out a very practical 5 km route for the ultralight train that would collect students on bikes from a number of schools along the way, using existing power and water easements behind the local community.

Kael spoke to Nick Abroms, Gold Coast Council’s Active Travel Project Officer who thought the idea made real sense. He said it was clear that people would use it, because it would cut down travelling time and be safe

Read more in ReNew 130.

Prize ReNew sub banner