Karl's brother was heading off to university and wanted a way to move quickly to and around campus. Using the car wasn't a realistic option because parking around university buildings is always a problem and the risk of being ticketed was high. The possibility of biking was considered, but the number of bike thefts – even when well secured in designated areas – made that option less attractive. Using a skateboard appeared an obvious solution, but Karl soon discovered that attitudes towards skateboarders were far from positive. "People think you're not serious about learning and are just there to fool around," noted Karl, "and carrying your skateboard under your arm into lecture theatres and tutorial rooms isn't allowed."
After talking to a number of people about the transport options, Karl was convinced that the skateboard was the most efficient and cheapest transport option for his brother. Karl thought about the possibility of designing a skateboard that could be made small enough to fit easily into a small backpack which could be carried un-noticed into the lecture theatres. "The bag would not only hold the skateboard, but also disguise it," says Karl. "They'd just think its a bag of books and wouldn't know that there's a skateboard in there."
Karl started by making a skateboard, fibre-glassing between three sheets of plywood "to give it a bit of extra strength and flex". He then looked at the problem of how to adapt the skateboard so it could be quickly and easily broken in half and re-assembled. However straight-forward this appeared, coming up with a workable solution proved a much more difficult and challenging task than Karl had originally envisaged.
Karl decided the best solution was to design a folding board, so he focussed on the hinge point for folding – how to ensure both strength and ease of locking in position.
Through experimentation, he found that nylon blocks provided this without adding unwanted extra weight that would come from using metal or wood. Fibre-glassing around the block helped to hold it in place and provided added strength.
Next he looked at the locking mechanism; his first idea was a push button device that he'd seen working on scooters, but this proved unworkable. He then tried an idea based around the quick-release device on some push-bikes and this seemed more promising. "I found a rod and drilled it out and welded the two ends in to make it longer. This is where I discovered that the L-shape made it much stronger, so I had to make the hinge bigger on one side."
With the major technical problems solved, the project was completed with the design and construction of the small backpack to hold the finished folded skateboard.
Karl got a lot of satisfaction from the way that everything came together to produce a prototype that worked as well as intended. "I've enjoyed the whole lot really. I enjoyed modelling to find out different ways I could make it better and once I found a solution that worked, I was stoked."
Although his brother admits to problems with the overall weight of the board – particularly when added to an already heavy bag of books – he is delighted with its strength and with the way it can be easily folded and unfolded, and locked in position for use.