MIT students win Hyperloop competition

In November, we posted a story about SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s proposed supersonic transportation network called Hyperloop. This past weekend, Musk’s dream for the Hyperloop took another important step toward becoming a reality.

Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop transportation promises to rocket pods through an above-ground steel tube at speeds of more than 750 miles per hour, allowing passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes. That’s faster than the one-and-a-half hour flight and nearly six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. 

But how will these pods actually look and move through the tube, and how will they hit these incredible velocities without their passengers feeling any sensations of speed? Last year, Musk decided to leave these not-so-minor details to some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking colleges and universities as he launched a world-wide competition for the best pod design.

The judging took place this past weekend … and we have a winner!

Congratulations to the team of 25 brilliant and innovative students from MIT who took home the first place prize in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition at Texas A&M University on Sunday.

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MIT’s winning pod design features “a passive magnetic levitation system that incorporates two arrays of 20 neodymium magnets,” according to the team’s website. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

 

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The 25-member MIT team includes students specializing in aeronautics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and business management. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

The MIT team’s pod design beat out 160 competing teams from 27 universities charged with creating the future capsule for the Hyperloop system. The remainder of the top 5 finishers included Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and University of California (Irvine).

“It’s great to see our hard work recognized, and we are excited to have the opportunity to continue to push this technology one step closer to reality,” members of the MIT Hyperloop Team told the Boston Globe.

The judges were impressed by MIT’s 551-pound pod covered in carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets. Accelerating at 2.4 Gs, the pod is designed to use magnets so it can levitate 15 millimeters above the track as it glides on a cushion of air. A fail-safe braking system was incorporated into the design, “meaning if the actuators or computers fail, the system will brake automatically,” the team wrote on its website.

“I’m starting to think this is really going to happen,” Musk said at the awards ceremony on Sunday. “It’s clear the public and the world wants something new and I think you’re going to bring it to them. So congratulations.”

The next step? This summer, MIT and a host of other universities recognized at the competition will have the opportunity to actually test their pod designs using human-sized pods on a one-mile test track near SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. This test track is where the “rubber will meet the road,” or the “magnets will meet the tube.” This will be the next critical step in leveraging the greatest innovative young minds in the world to create the transportation system of the future. Stay tuned!

This post was written by Justin Rice and Suffolk Construction’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Dan Antonellis. Justin can be reached at jrice@suffolk.com or follow him on Twitter at @JustinAlanRiceDan can be reached at dantonellis@suffolk.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn here and follow him on Twitter at @DanAntonellis.

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