UC team prepares for finals of Space X Hyperloop Pod competition

A team of University of Cincinnati students that’s part of a global effort to build a new Hyperloop transportation system will present its design at the Official Space X Hyperloop Pod competition in June.
Hyperloop is intended to provide high-speed, solar-powered, zero-carbon transportation between cities less than 900 miles apart. Passengers seated in a pod would be propelled through tubes on an air cushion, similar to how air hockey pucks move. Getting from Cincinnati to Chicago currently takes roughly four hours by car; the trip via Hyperloop would be a mere 30 minutes.
Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla and private space craft technology manufacturer Space X, is Hyperloop’s highest-profile backer and advocate. Last year, Space X committed to constructing a test track at its facility in Hawthorne, Calif. and announced an international competition to generate models to test there.
More than 1,000 university, high school and corporate teams from around the world entered the initial competition. Last fall’s first round required a preliminary design briefing to outline a complete Hyperloop transportation system. The field was narrowed to 300 teams, including Hyperloop UC, a team of 60 undergraduate and graduate students representing an array of University of Cincinnati departments and disciplines.
“At first, a few of my friends in engineering made up a core team of five or six people,” says Dhaval Shiyani, Team Captain and Chief Engineer of Hyperloop UC. “Once we came up with a rough plan of what we wanted to do, we launched a recruitment drive to complete the team, interviewing candidates to find people motivated enough to work on something that will very surely change transportation.”
A diverse team was important, as the competition requires not only detailed engineering but also a manufacturing plan to construct and scale the project as well as business plan with funding models.
“We have people not just with an engineering background but also people from business, design and DAAP,” says Shishir Shetty, Hyperloop UC Director of Finance.
Team members traveled to Texas A&M University in January to present their final design, which included not only the passenger pod but also station renderings and a complete system engineering scheme. The event drew an impressive gathering of Hyperloop supporters, including Hyperloop Technologies CEO Rob Loyd and Chairman Shervin Pishevar, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Musk himself.
Hyperloop UC was selected as one of the final 30 teams to advance to the prototype competition in June. The UC team is now constructing a 14-by-3-foot pod prototype to ship to California for the trials on the track being built on the Space X campus. Although this remains a competition, Space X has encouraged participants to discuss the project with potential community partners so that the winning design will actually be scalable and buildable.
Hyperloop UC team members have been doing that, as well as reaching out to community organizations and schools to build excitement and interest about its project.
“In addition to our full-scale prototype, we are building a small-scale model to take to schools to raise awareness and excite young students to join an effort that will make a better future,” Shiyani says. “We want to ignite their passion not just for engineering but for technology in general.”
Hyperloop UC continues to raise funds and in-kind support for its project, including seeking assistance from local companies on manufacturing and technical issues, with help from their UC advisors and colleagues. Online donations are being accepted by the UC Foundation here (select Hyperloop UC on the Area of Focus pulldown menu).
“We owe a lot to (UC) President Santa Ono,” Shetty says. “He got on board as soon as we made the pitch to him and has been great about spreading the word around town. The UC faculty across campus in engineering, business and DAAP have been making calls, setting up meetings and helping with fundraising — without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
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Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.