Redlands conquers 24 hour Human Powered Vehicle Challenge

In 2016, students from the Redlands District Special School (RDSS) first got involved with TRACTION. It was fantastic to have Travis, Jessy, Owen and others supported by Principal Andrew through the TRACTION Bike Build program in the workshop. What was fantastic to see was participants from other schools, including Capalaba State College, helping out servicing 15 bicycles and tricycles from RDSS that were in desperate need of repair. The bikes, purpose-built for those with physical disabilities, were put back to service at the school after being stored in a shed. Click HERE for the back story.

Since then, our relationship with RDSS has blossomed, and the project for 2017 has been building a recumbent bicycle for a team of students from RDSS to race in a 24 hour, human powered vehicle challenge in Maryborough. The Fraser Coast Technology Challenge was held over the weekend of 8-10 September and it was a privilege for TRACTION to be the pit crew for the RDSS team at the event.

The Build

​A team of TRACTION mentors helped students from RDSS build a recumbent bike, adapting it from a base bike generously donated by Paul. The build has been the focus for students throughout their time at the TRACTION workshop leading up to the event this year. The Tech Challenge provides opportunities for students, teachers, parents and local industry to work together to design and construct a variety of human powered vehicles, solar powered machines and innovative robots. There certainly were plenty of high-tech vehicles at the event, but the TRACTION-RDSS entry was ‘low-tech’ and ‘old school’ with students providing the leg power!

The bike featured a lightweight but strong design, cambered front wheels for safe and swift cornering, a roll cage and other safety features to ensure it passed official scrutineering inspections.  As with any project time was tight and there were ideas, tweaks and modifications to squeeze extra performance from the bike that remained on the wish list, so naming the beast “Unfinished Business” seemed appropriate. In the end, the bike’s robust and sensible design proved to be an advantage on the track. Aside from rider rotations, only 2 pit stops were required to made adjustments to repair and fine-tune the bike and get it back on track! 

The Team

7 students from RDSS were supported by Principal Andrew, Lyndell and Glen from school who kept the team fuelled up and rested throughout the race. Travis, Jessy, Owen, Cayden, Kingsley, Jett and Joshua worked wonderfully as a team all weekend. At every rider rotation, the students helped each other get in and out of the bike, perform safety checks and swiftly get the bike back onto the race circuit.  A highlight was seeing Travis, who always does a stellar job, hit the track for a solid 1 hour straight, doing 11 laps and 15kms before grabbing a rest at 2am. This amazing group of 6 young men were an inspiration. 

The Race

The town cryer’s cannon blasted at 12 noon on Saturday signalling the countdown of the 24 hour event. Riders took turns to clock up laps throughout the heat of the day, through a frosty night and until the finish at 12noon on Sunday. Concentration spans were tested, and across the field there were some exciting crashes that kept pit crews on their toes! Some ingenious problem-solving skills helped the teams keep rolling.

The race featured an array of vehicles, many of which featured aerodynamic foils and hybrid electric-human powered engines propelling some down the straight at speeds clocked at 70 km/hr. It was hectic through the chicanes and keeping out of harm’s way of these rockets was a challenge for the RDSS team at times, however the students had a ball, did a fantastic job in the race and all of them displayed excellent behaviour all weekend. 

The Future

It truly was a fantastic weekend for all involved. For some of the team it was their first time away from home. The pride and delight on their faces when they released what they could achieve left no doubt that RDSS will be back next year!

Message from Principal Andrew

“RDSS caters for students who have been diagnosed with a verified Intellectual Disability. These young people face many challenges in life academically, socially, personally and often physically. At RDSS we have a broad curriculum that attempts to develop the whole child so that they can participate in, and contribute to society to their fullest. We look at curriculum and programs that will develop the academic, vocational, personal and physical aspect of every child. This often includes developing partnerships with others outside the school. These partnerships enhance the offerings to our students. 

TRACTION is one such partnership. TRACTION has enabled some of our students to do things they would not have been able to within the school campus. It has also allowed them to interact with adults other than school staff. This is a critical part of their social development and gets them ready for employment opportunities upon graduation.

Resilience is another area where our students often fail, they lack the cognitive capacity to be able to push through or take on challenges unfamiliar to them. This then leads to them not trying or giving up quickly. The Human Vehicle Challenge was an ideal opportunity to test the resilience of our students and push them to limits they had not encountered before. The notion of a 24 hour bike ride was a daunting prospect to them and they could not perceive the endurance they would need.

I knew this was going to be a massive challenge and had no idea how far they might push themselves or if they would at all. It was possible they might throw in the towel early into the event as it was all too hard. In my mind I was hoping that we would ride through to around 8.00pm Saturday night, have several hours sleep and rejoin the event some time Sunday morning. 

Well, I was blown away by what these boys achieved! The last rider for the night pulled into the pits at 1.45am Sunday morning after completing 11 consecutive laps of the course. The boys were awake at 6.30am keen to get started again and were back on the bike by 7.15am to ride through to 12noon, completing a total of 140 laps, equating to 215 kms. An achievement well beyond my expectations!

Every rider pushed themselves well beyond what I thought they might and did not consider giving up when asked if they could complete another lap. I am so proud of their efforts and will remind them of how far they pushed themselves when in the future they say something is too hard.

Needless to say no if this would have been possible if it were not for the support and encouragement of the TRACTION Team. Their work in the construction of the bike, the expertise in the pits during the event and general care for the boys made the event possible. I cannot thank Sandy, Richard and Luke enough for their help and support along with Karl and Dan for the hours he put into the design and construction. The partnership between Redlands Special School and TRACTION is one I value and will ensure continues well into the future.”

Andrew Thompson