Back in 2013 Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] released a technical paper entitled Hyperloop Alpha. Contained therein, Musk outlined his vision for mass transit of the future, where people travelled in electrically-propelled capsules inside partially-evacuated elevated tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph — far faster than the average commercial airplane.
At the time, Musk said his duties at SpaceX and Tesla Motors prevented him from pursuing the idea further. Instead Musk made his plans available for academic institutions, entrepreneurs and inventors to build on under an open-source license. To encourage the development of hyperloop technologies and foster those with the skills to bring it to reality, SpaceX even announced that it would help host a competition next year to find who can design and build the best Hyperloop pod capsule.
The event it promised, would be split into two stages: a design weekend held at Texas A&M University in January 2016, followed by the chance to build and test the winning design on a Hyperloop test track being constructed in Hawthorne, California.
Now, reports The Verge, after sifting through all of the Preliminary Design Briefings it received from hopeful teams around the world, SpaceX has produced a shortlist of 124 teams who will head to Texas this January for the Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend. Those teams, totalling more than 1,000 students from all four corners of the world, include some well-known engineering institutions such as Virginia Tech and MIT. But it also includes teams from institutions that most readers won’t have even heard of.
But don’t think either that the Hyperloop competitors are just undergraduates and masters candidates from universities around the world. Three teams — one from California, one from Texas and one from Illinois — are High School engineering teams, highlighting the fact that the competition is more interested in the ideas being presented than who is presenting them.
Regardless of their technical background or academic standing however, each of the 124 teams taking part in the Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend will have the same task: to present their designs to an evaluation panel made up of SpaceX and Tesla Motors engineers as well as academic judges from Texas A&M.
In addition to presenting their designs to the panel, teams will have to face tough questioning by the panel. Questions will focus on everything from how the pods will interface with the hyperloop tube design to the safety protocols which will keep occupants and cargo safe at all times. As the questioning proceeds, they will get ever-specific, asking candidates to quote specific calculations for everything from capsule drag through to flow rates and leak rate.
Initially, the Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend had been scheduled to take place on the weekend of January 9/10, but now it appears that the competition has been moved to January 29/30. As before, it will be held at Texas A&M, College Station, with members of the public invited to attend to view the submissions for themselves and witness the judging process.
As TheVerge notes, two startup companies that are trying to beat the rush and commercialize hyperloop themselves — Hyperloop Transport Technologies and Hyperloop Technologies Inc. — are taking no part in the weekend.
We’re guessing however that any winning designs will gain a lot of interest from both companies after the event.
In the interim, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the Hyperloop Pod Competition and letting you know the latest news as we have it.
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