Taking shifts at the wheel in two 15-passenger vans, it took students traveling from Florida to Texas last weekend about 15 hours to drive a little over 900 miles. If the technology they are helping to develop gets off the ground, they might someday cover that distance in less than 90 minutes.
“Hyperloop” is a high-speed transportation design concept introduced by engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. In 2013, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla challenged the world to develop the concept from his open-source designs. In the first round of competitions last week, over 120 teams from around the world presented plans for moving forward – specifically on designs for the pods that will carry passengers and cargo. Only 29 college teams were selected to build prototypes for a final round of competition this summer. The University of Florida’s Gatorloop team was one of them.
“When they said our name, it was so surreal,” said Taylor Waber, captain of UF’s Gatorloop team. “There were so many great designs presented, we really weren’t sure that we’d make the cut.”
The students – who represent six different majors, all housed within the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering – later analyzed the selection process, trying to pinpoint what had set them apart from other contenders like Stanford and Georgia Tech. Waber believes they got their answer when Musk responded to a question from the audience after the award ceremony. He was asked which of the two design camps he leaned towards – maglev or air bearings.
“There is also the wheels camp . . .” Musk said, laughing. He offered this advice to the teams: “If you’re trying to create a company, it’s important to limit the number of miracles in series.”
Gatorloop was one of only two university teams who integrated wheels into their design.
Writer: Jen Ambrose; firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Taylor Waber; email@example.com