UMN Team strives to design hyperloop pod

The team will travel to Texas to compete and present their own pod design.

Tiffany Lukk

Next month, students from around the country will present their concepts for the best possible prototype of a pod that will zoom through a frictionless tube at speeds of more than 750 miles per hour.
 
University of Minnesota SpaceX HyperLoop Pod Competition members will join the fray in Texas this January to present their own pod design.
 
Design U, Tesla Works and the University’s chapter of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics are all working together to create a functional hyperloop pod. They’ll present their project to SpaceX and Tesla in hopes of getting funding to build a real pod to race in the summer.
 
“[The hyperloop] is a mode of high-speed ground transportation concept, and it’s based around having a tube where you suck all the air out of and make like a near vacuum,” project leader Jarod White said. “The idea is that you have a pod, which is kind of like a train, travel at very high speeds through that tube and encounter pretty little air resistance.”
 
The project started when White brought the idea to Tesla Works, said the group’s president, Bri Schlangen. 
 
The hyperloop concept could potentially allow people to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than half an hour, a press release from SpaceX said.
 
The University’s SpaceX HyperLoop Pod Competition Team’s pod design uses an air bearing to create a layer of air under the pod, White said. A compressor is being used to create the air bearing.
 
The hyperloop pod is one of the first projects created by Design U, a student group launched this semester.
 
The role of the design team is to factor in what will appeal to people, design leader and mechanical engineering junior Katrina Mutuc said.
 
“[We] design deliverables like how are guests boarding our hyperloop pod safely and efficiently,” Mutuc said. “Potentially, what would the station look like? What would the chairs they’d be sitting in for the duration of their journey look like?”
 
In addition to the three student groups working on the hyperloop pod, people with marketing backgrounds also contributed, Mutuc said.
 
“It’s one of those, ‘The sky’s the limit’ thing[s],” she said. “You can choose anything, but it has to be the right thing.”
 
The expected cost of building the planned hyperloop pod is $40,000, White said. They’re 
 
hoping to get the money from sponsors attending the competition’s Design Weekend in Texas.
 
If the University’s hyperloop pod competition team receives sponsorship and builds a hyperloop pod, they’ll be able to race it this summer in California around a 1-mile-long track.
 
Other universities offer classes designed to help students build their pods, White said. Pre-professional and professional groups are also entering the 
competition, Mutuc said.
 
“One of the main reasons of the competition is to keep this whole movement, all of this knowledge that’s been building up on to how to make a real hyperloop a reality,” she said.