UIUC Hyperloop Featured in WSJ

A few months after the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s scale hyperloop project gained media attention from Geek, Vice, Popular Science, and Business Insider, the Wall Street Journal has written a strong article on the race to the Hyperloop that again prominently features the work at the Illinois. As I member of the team in the spring of 2014, I have been thrilled to watch the continuing efforts of Andrew Horton, Zak Lee-Richerson, the UIUC pod team, Professor Pantano-Rubino, and others. Good luck in the SpaceX competition!

Excerpted below, entire article is available here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-race-to-create-elon-musks-hyperloop-heats-up-1448899356?mod=e2fb

WHILE THE UCLA SUPRASTUDIO TEAM WAS ADDRESSING the user experience for HTT, students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were putting the finishing touches on a 1/24th-scale Hyperloop, complete with a magnetic induction coil and a 3-D printed pod. On May 4th, their tiny pod accelerated forward in the tube, exactly as they’d hoped. Later, the students shot a six-second video and posted it on YouTube.

The video went up shortly after the SpaceX competition was announced. “Suddenly our YouTube video was getting all these hits,” says Emad Jassim, the director of undergraduate programs for the university’s department of mechanical science and engineering (MechSE). “But we were right here the whole time.”

The Illinois team enters the SpaceX contest with a strong competitive edge. This is its fourth Hyperloop design project, the first dating to fall 2013, and the Hyperloop is now a part of the MechSE curriculum. The team has assembled an interdisciplinary network of faculty from aeronautical engineering, thermal dynamics, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and software, and two of the team members have interned at SpaceX, including team leader Zak Lee-Richerson, who, with his blond hair and motorcycle jacket, looks ready to play himself in the movie about his life. According to faculty leader and professor Carlos Pantano-Rubino, the final cost of the test pod is still undetermined, another obstacle on the road to building something that does not yet exist. But it helps that the project’s corporate sponsor, Shell, has some of the deepest pockets in the world.

The Illinois team is divided into five groups: four focused on distinct aspects of the pod design, and a fifth group, focused on safety and reliability, which has one member on each of the other groups. Senior team leader Jake Haseltine describes the safety team’s mission as the prevention of “branching failures”—one problem that turns into two, which each turn into several more until catastrophe strikes across systems. Haseltine’s biggest fear going into the competition? “We’re afraid another team would go first and damage the tube,” he said. “And that after a year’s work, we wouldn’t be able to present our pod. So we’re hoping to go first.”


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