MINES TEAM MAKES HYPERLOOP DASH
A 24-squad competition eventually could make such a transportation system viable.
Colorado School of Mines is racing to finish its all-electric design for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in California.
With the deadline just over two weeks away, the Colorado School of Mines hyperloop team has to beat the clock before racing against its competitors.
Team Diggerloop is pushing to finish its all-electric hyperloop design for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in California at the end of August. Though it has less money, experience and manpower than other teams, Diggerloop team members remain unfazed.
“We’re pretty confident with where we’re at,” Digerloop lead engineer Karl Grueschow said. “And we’re pretty sure it’s going to work.”
Right now, the team’s hyperloop pod, the futuristic travel concept popularized by SpaceX and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, is little more than a few plastic pipes held together with screws. The team has until Aug. 18, a bit longer than two weeks, to make its own vehicle.
“Everything’s in manufacturing right now, but once all that stuff gets here, the assembly shouldn’t take all that long,” Grueschow said. “We’ve been hitting delays left and right, but that’s project management, right? That’s how it goes. If we have to leave a little late for the testing week, that’s the way it is, but we’re going to get there. We can do it.”
The competition, now in its second year, calls for each team to build a pod and make it go as fast as possible. The teams also have to successfully stop their pods without crashing. The vehicles are autonomous and will not have passengers.
Finalists were selected in April, and 24 teams will unleash their pods in a tubular course at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The idea of the competition is to help jump-start technology that could eventually make a hyperloop transportation system viable.
When Musk introduced the idea of a hyperloop travel system four years ago, he described an above-ground tunnel system with vehicles capable of reaching 700 miles per hour speeding through tunnels that mix vacuum tubes and electromagnetic suspension. The test track, however, will not have this technology.
The challenges for Team Diggerloop are real. Though it is getting its funding from Mines, the team still needs donations and anticipates its budget to run as high as $100,000 — $30,000 more than its expectation in April.
And while some competing teams are made up of multiple schools — AZLoop is comprised of four schools from Arizona — Diggerloop is alone. Some teams have competed before, but not Diggerloop.
Some teams have budgets twice as big, project manager Austin Genger said. With a considerably tighter budget, Diggerloop is using cheaper and more readily available materials to build the pod.
Participating teams in the first competition had more hoops to jump through. Participants this year have one goal, to make their unmanned vehicle go really, really fast.
The team wants its hyperloop pod to top 280 miles per hour, but that’s not even the hardest part, team representatives said. The race will take less than 30 seconds,
and they need to abruptly stop the pod by the end.
“Not only do you have to accelerate it up to speed, but you have to stop it, too,” Grueschow said. “And any weight you add onto this thing you have to stop, so we have to keep the weight down. Every little bit counts. We’re stopping at four G’s, which means everything is going to weigh about four times as much.”
Although hyperloop technology is far from becoming a feasible means of transportation, it could have its place in uses previously only thought possible in sci-fi.
“These pods could essentially start connecting facilities on Mars if we started colonizing and research out there,” Genger said. “Or if we are to start building excessively large spacecraft that are miles long, we could use these to get from one end to the other.”
Members of the team said the opportunity to pave the way for this technology still hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It’s awe-inspiring,” Genger said. “Not only do we have the ability to work on this stuff, but that we’re here on the leading edge to help bring this to fruition. It’s exciting.”
From left, Colorado School of Mines risk manager Christian Grundfor, project manager Austin Genger and head engineer Karl Grueschow of Team DiggerLoop check the design of the pod for the SpaceX Hyperloop competition.