A team of University of Maryland students will compete this weekend against 24 international teams in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. This weekend's competition is the second held by SpaceX to advance the "hyperloop" concept for a long-distance, high-speed transportation system that would send pods full of people or cargo through a near-vacuum tube at speeds up to 700 mph.
This weekend's contest focuses on a single criterion: maximum speed. It will be the second for the team, named UMD Loop, which competed in January 2017, winning the performance in operations award and placing fifth for overall pod design. Taking what the students learned from the January competition, UMD Loop's new pod—named Nemesis—will have revamped design features including:
A frame that is 60 pounds lighter with integrated pneumatics and electronics, leaving a cleaner exterior.
Brakes that allow operators to vary the drag and center the forces the pod experiences when racing down the track.
A magnetic levitation system that allows the pod to maneuver on wheels at low speeds and decreases magnetic drag so that the pod reaches levitation speeds sooner.
Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO and the originator of the hyperloop concept, announced recently that his latest startup, the Boring Company, received verbal government approval to build a hyperloop that would enable travelers to make the trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes.
To accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage innovation, the SpaceX competition challenges teams to design and build the fastest pod. The pod prototypes are scaled-down versions designed to operate on SpaceX's one-mile test track.
UMD Team Tops for Performance & Operations at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland team, UMDLoop won the performance and operations award and placed 5th in pod design and construction at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition held in Hawthorne, California, January 27-29.
This competition was the second in a series of a SpaceX competitions aimed at encouraging student innovation and advancing the Hyperloop concept for a new form of transportation in which passenger-carrying pods travel between cities at very high speeds through above-ground, low-pressure tubes.
During the current three-day event, 27 teams from around the globe pitted pod against pod to see which teams would have a chance to test their creation in SpaceX's vacuum-sealed one-mile test track adjacent to its headquarters. As part of the competition, teams underwent rigorous safety inspections and testing that evaluated all aspects of the pod's design from structural and functional to mechanical and navigation. In addition, each team had the opportunity for an open-air run, where they operated their pod on the test track without vacuum pressure.
"This has been a remarkable experience for our students, staff and advisors," said Darryll Pines, Dean of UMD's A. James Clark School of Engineering and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering. "UMD Loop competed well, and it has been a great partnership between two UMD colleges. We are extremely proud of the UMD Loop Team who strongly represented the University of Maryland."
It's been over a year since the UMD team successfully competed in the first SpaceX hyperloop event, an initial competition during which pod designs from more than 115 teams were winnowed down to those from 30 teams selected to move forward in the next phase of competition and take their pods from design to reality. During that year, the UMD team—which now includes more than 60 students from the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering; College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; and Department of Communication—devoted itself to the possibilities of Hyperloop travel and built one of the first pods of its kind.
"I'm blown away by our team's performance this week. We truly earned our spot as a top team in this competition," said Kyle Kaplan, aerospace engineering senior and team captain. "At the end of the day, I could not be more proud of our team and how well we worked together to succeed. Even though I wish we were given the opportunity to push the limits of our pod, I was extremely impressed by how we performed! Top five in the world, that's nothing to be disappointed about."
The Delft Hyperloop team, of Delft University in the Netherlands, got the highest overall score. Technical University of Munich, Germany secured the award for the fastest pod. And MIT placed third overall in the competition, which was judged by SpaceX engineers.
"The team has been a dream to work with," said chief faculty advisor Noah Ryder, a research associate and lecture in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering. "They have logged countless hours and made numerous sacrifices to be a part of making history, and their hard work has paid off."
Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and the originator of Hyperloop concept, spoke at this weekend’s competition and described the event as a way to encourage innovation in transport technology and get people excited about new forms of transport.
"It was fantastic to see so many different perspectives and people so passionate about working toward pushing the boundaries of transportation," said physics major and team project lead Erich Robinson-Tillenburg.
For computer science major and aerodynamics lead Paul Garvey, the competition was "hours upon hour of problem solving, and we loved every minute of it!"
Building on the enthusiasm and engineering achievements of the most recent competition, SpaceX will host another pod competition weekend during the summer of 2017. The UMD team plans to be there with a redesigned pod that has already been accepted for the competition.
"They are already gearing up to start all the analysis, building and testing that is needed to get race-ready again," said Ryder. "While some students will be graduating and won't be participating, we have recruited a new group of eager students to ensure that the program is able to thrive with the continued support of the university and our generous sponsors without whom we wouldn't have been able to bring our ideas to fruition."
UMD's pod Prometheus featured a passive magnetic levitation control and breaking using neodymium magnets—the strongest type of commercially available permanent magnet, a unique chainmail breaking system and a multi-link suspension system for smoothing the ride.