Texas ChEs Compete in SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

Hyperloop DW 1 Light AdjustedThree Texas ChE undergraduate students competed in the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend competition, Jan. 29 and 30 at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.  512 Hyperloop, a team of 70 University of Texas at Austin undergraduates, includes students from a wide variety of schools and departments, with freshmen Ethan Freeburg, Boris Chu and Justin Leung representing the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

512 Hyperloop was established in August 2015 in response to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s proposal of a revolutionary new method of mass transit meant to move people at incredibly fast speeds using clean, sustainable and cost-efficient energy. To accelerate the development of Hyperloop, Musk is hosting a competition geared towards university students and engineering teams to build and design a functioning Hyperloop pod.

The team aims to develop a working prototype of the Hyperloop pod, capable of moving speeds of nearly 350 mph, or making the travel-time from Austin to Dallas in less than 30 minutes. They plan to test and contribute to academic research in the fields of forced-flow axial compressors, high-speed air bearing devices and associated control features.

From computer science to chemical engineering, the students vary in majors allowing the team to pool their knowledge and expertise to transform the concept of Hyperloop into a reality.

“Chemical engineers bring knowledge of materials and flow to the team,” Freeburg said. “But beyond the specific expertise that chemical engineers bring, it’s the general engineering concepts which have helped a ton.”

Freeburg is a member of the Frame and Structure subsystem, which is responsible for designing the internal frame of the pod that provides structural support, designing the skin to maintain laminar flow across the pod, and mechanical integration, which coordinates the integration of the physical components of the pod.

Team Photo of 512 Hyperloop's 70 members standing in front of the UT TowerThe entire 512 Hyperloop team meets twice a month, and then each subsystem group meets again at least once a week. Leung, a member of the Cooling subsystem, is using his knowledge of chemical engineering to design a method of recycling the coolant that will decrease the temperature of the Hyperloop pod as it moves along the track.

“To me, it seemed like I would have to wait at least another decade before [the Hyperloop concept] would actually be in my life,” Leung said. “By participating in this competition, I am becoming a part of the future, and no matter where this takes me, I can still say I’ve made an impact on the Hyperloop project.”

512 Hyperloop was one of 115 teams selected from more than 1200 to compete in Design Weekend, where they presented the design for their Hyperloop pod, “Auroch”, to a series of judges. The competition included teams from 27 U.S. states and 20 countries.

“We met several different teams from around the world and got to see how everyone solved different problems, a fantastic learning experience for any undergraduate student,” Michael Holt Rukavina, founder and team captain of 512 Hyperloop, said.

The top five teams determined by the judges were MIT Hyperloop Team (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Delft Hyperloop (Delft University of Technology), Badgerloop (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Hyperloop at Virginia Tech (Virginia Tech) and HyperXite (University of California Irvine). These teams, along with 17 other team finalists, will compete again this summer in Hawthorne, California, where SpaceX is currently building a mile-long test track.

512 Hyperloop did not place among the winners, but plans to move forward with their build in hopes of putting their prototype on the test track this summer and to prove they have the best Hyperloop pod design.

“[512 Hyperloop] has given me an opportunity to work on a team project, design something really cool, and hopefully, actually build it,” said Freeburg, “It also gives me an opportunity to interact with engineers from other majors, learn about other engineering projects available at UT, and network with many people I would not have otherwise met.

In order to build the pod, 512 Hyperloop is gathering funds on HornRaiser, UT Austin’s crowdsourcing website. The team also encourages alumni feedback on their Hyperloop pod design and will hold design reviews for alumni who wish to learn about the technicalities of the design. Learn more about these events and how you can help 512 Hyperloop by emailing 512hyperloop@gmail.com.

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