Two UT Austin teams were selected to compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition this summer in Hawthorne, California, where student university teams from across the globe were challenged to design and build the best transport hyperloop pod. The latest proposed high-speed transportation, the hyperloop, could revolutionize the barriers of distance and time, cutting long drives like Austin to Dallas from hours to minutes.

512 Hyperloop 

512 Hyperloop Team photo
The 512 Hyperloop team at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition. View more photos.

512 Hyperloop, one of the few teams at the competition consisting entirely of undergraduate students, stood out because of their cost-effective design. 512 made the most of a slim budget by designing a magnetic levitation system using passive magnets instead of active ones, which are commonly used on magnetic trains. This way, the pod travels through a magnetic track on aluminum wheels and begins levitation after reaching a speed of 100 mph.

“The difference [between our design and other team’s ] is ours uses passive magnets,” suspension subsystem lead and mechanical engineering senior Eric Simmons said. “The idea with this is you can make a 700 mile long track for the same price as you can make a 50 mile long track otherwise.”

Both the cost effective magnetic levitation design and the braking system attracted the attention of SpaceX when the team applied to compete.

“We definitely learned a lot in terms of how to improve,” aerospace engineering sophomore and electric subsystems lead for 512 Hyperloop, aerospace sophomore and Electric Subsystems lead for 512 Hyperloop,  Sahar Rashed said. “We had a great time talking to SpaceX and Tesla mentors about our pod. They really loved our magnetic levitation and braking system and had great constructive criticism on our power and electronics system.”

Texas Guadaloop

Guadaloop Innovative Award photo
The Texas Guadaloop team was one of only three teams to receive the 2017 SpaceX Hyperloop Innovation Award.

Texas Guadaloop, a team made up of mostly graduate students, was one of only three teams to receive the SpaceX Hyperloop Innovation Award for their pod’s air bearings design. Air is pushed out of the hyperloop pod, allowing it to glide down a track without any friction and while decreasing drag.

Guadaloop chose this design in efforts to cut down on costs and save energy compared to a standard magnetic levitation system. The team was one of the small handful whose design was safe enough to test on the SpaceX track at the competition.

Aerospace engineering junior Roshan Nair said the team’s insatiable work ethic fostered confidence when it was time to compete. 

“We entered as a proof of concept,” Nair said. “We wanted to prove that this idea can work instead of abandoning it. Because of that, we at least had the innate confidence that we had something to distinguish ourselves from the competition—we were an air bearings team.”

Both teams plan to return to next year’s competition in the summer of 2018.