Student engineers from MIT win SpaceX-organized design contest for their version of the Hyperloop


In December last year, we talked about the Hyperloop, an incredibly futuristic high-speed transport concept that was originally conceived by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. The system, if developed, could carry people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under 30 minutes, while traveling at the speed of sound. Recently, a group of MIT students was awarded the first prize in a SpaceX-organized competition, for their rendition of the ultra-fast transportation system.

First introduced as part of a 57-page presentation in August 2013, the concept is based on the use of near-vacuum tubes to propel specially-designed floating pods, carrying passengers as well as cargo, at speeds comparable to that of sound. While the Hyperloop is still just a concept, a number of companies, including Musk’s SpaceX and Hyperloop Technologies, have already started constructing tracks, where the system will be tested, once developed.

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In a recent competition, held at Texas A&M University on January 30, as many as 115 student teams from 27 US states and 20 different countries came together to showcase their Hyperloop designs. The MIT team won the contest for their version of the high-speed tube transporation. Measuring around 2.5 m in length, 1 m in width and approximately 250 kg in weight, the MIT-conceived system features special levitating pods that are in turn lifted with the help of powerful magnets.

To be able to compete, however, the participants were required to incorporate three different elements into their Hyperloop designs. These include a mechanical pusher that would function as a propulsion system, specialized sensors that provide real-time telemetry data and finally, pods that levitate inside the tube. Each of the entries was judged on basis of several critera, such as innovation, feasibility, uniqueness, economy and so on. Speaking about the contest, M. Katherine Banks, the dean of Texas A&M Engineering, said:

The future of engineering was on display this weekend in College Station. We challenge our students to step outside their comfort zones and approach engineering problems in novel ways. The young men and women at this competition definitely accomplished that, and presented design and technical concepts that were well beyond anyone’s expectations.

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Students from Delft University of Technology, Virginia Tech, University of California Irvine and University of Wisconsin-Madison were also awarded prizes in other categories. Each of the 22 selected teams will now have to turn their vision into working prototypes, which will then undergo testing during the coming summer. The vehicles will be tested on a one-mile-long track, currently being developed near SpaceX’s California headquarters.

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Source: Texas A&M University

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