After a year of immensely hard work, innovative design and challenging manufacture it was finally time for HYPED, The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team, to test our creation over 5000 miles away in the Golden State.
I travelled out to the USA in mid July to help assemble the pod which had been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean a few weeks earlier. One of my biggest concerns before arriving was that all the different parts of the pod wouldn’t fit together since this would be the first time we assembled the whole thing. However after a few days with a bit of filing here and there and some light alterations, Poddy The Second was complete and looking a million dollars. We moved the Pod to SpaceX headquarters on the back of a flatbed (quite an amusing sight for those stuck in LA traffic) and when we arrived we got to see what the other 19 teams who had been chosen to compete had come up with. It turned out we were the only team who had gone for a fully scalable hyperloop design, with the other teams focusing on small pods with friction wheels. This made us stand out with our magnetic levitation and propulsion systems showing that we aren’t afraid to be different and push the limits of technology.
That being said, this level of complexity came with risks and unfortunately we didn’t pass enough tests by the competition day to make it into the 0.75 mile long vacuum tube to fully test the pod. Nonetheless I can say that as a team we are incredibly proud of what we achieved and placed 6th in the world. This achievement didn’t go un-noticed and the man, the myth, the legend Elon Musk popped by our stand to congratulate us. Getting to meet him was an incredible experience and we got to ask him various questions about the competition, SpaceX and where he sees the future of transportation going.
The next day we were invited to the British Consulate in Los Angeles for an early breakfast. With most of the team out celebrating the night before, this turned somewhat into a late brunch with plenty of tired heads. We were incredibly honoured though by the invite and hope to see them again next year! After lunch we made our way to Pasadena on the outskirts of LA to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). On this tour we got to see the mission control centre for the Deep Space Network as well as where they built the Cassini spacecraft. On our final day, a few of us drove early in the morning to the Nevada desert, a round trip of over 600 miles! We were lucky to see Virgin Hyperloop One’s Devloop, a full scale test track, a very hot and sunny experience we won’t forget!
So for now the Hyperloop remains a dream held by student teams around the world, but for how much longer? Watch this space…