Mill Creek teen creates monorail video game

MILL CREEK — Eighth-grader McKaulay Kolakowski feels almost ready to debut a computer game that he designed.

His deadline is getting closer. The Heatherwood Middle School student wanted his monorail game to be perfect before March 24, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Center Monorail.

McKaulay, 14, sat with his father’s laptop at the kitchen table in his home last week. He opened the game, pressed a button on the keyboard and watched as the monorail’s doors slid open, then closed.

“I’m really pleased with that,” he said.

McKaulay has worked since August on the game that allows players to choose a red or a blue monorail and then drive it along the track, passing Seattle landmarks and buildings that include the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Bank of America and Macy’s.

He built the game using Scratch, a programming software for beginners. He was introduced to it over the summer at a computer animation course at Lakeside School in Seattle.

McKaulay was inspired by an interactive cable car on the San Francisco Cable Car website. He decided to combine his life-long love of trains and his interest in the history of the Seattle Center and came up with an idea for his monorail game.

McKaulay researched the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and discovered the Seattle Center Monorail was built for the event. He learned the monorail opened to the public about a month before the fair began and was built by Alweg Rapid Transit Systems.

“I learned they pioneered the monorail design and that it can go up to 50 mph on its track, which is pretty amazing,” McKaulay said. “I thought the history of how it came to Seattle was interesting.”

McKaulay spent over 200 hours programming his game, using Google Street View to make it reflective of the real monorail’s surroundings and keeping everything to scale. He spent almost a whole weekend designing the Macy’s building.

“I think one of my longest buildings to make was the Macy’s building just because that’s one of the most massive buildings on the route,” he said. “I was making sure the (building’s) lines weren’t crooked. You might have a jiggly line. I wanted to go a step beyond.”

In the future, the game can include more of Seattle’s landmarks and businesses that aren’t part of the actual monorail’s route, which runs between the Seattle Center and Westlake Center.

“The neat thing is if people get interested in this, it doesn’t have to end where the monorail does,” said his father, Giles Kolakowski. “McKaulay can make it go by anything.”

McKaulay is building a website, www.McKaulay.com, where he plans to share his completed work. He’ll ask if his game can be featured as part of the Seattle Center Monorail and Seattle Center websites.

If that happens, McKaulay said his goal would then be to sell sponsorships to businesses to be part of the game. He’d use any money made off the game to help pay for an 11-day trip to China he’s scheduled to take this summer with other Heatherwood students.

“It may be ambitious,” McKaulay said.

He has ridden on the Seattle Monorail multiple times and has traveled on monorails at Disneyland and in Las Vegas. McKaulay hopes people enjoy his work.

Anyone who’s heard about Seattle’s monorail “may think this is kind of fun,” he said. “I think people who have ridden it in the past would really find it fun.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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