In summer 2018, HYPED (The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team) was invited to compete at SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Competition III. The annual competition invites student teams from all over the world to design and manufacture a sub-scale prototype transport vehicle to demonstrate technical feasibility of the Hyperloop concept, which was proposed by Elon Musk as a futuristic high speed mode of transport in 2013. As part of HYPED, me and my peers arrived in California on 9th July. Our work began with prototype assembly, followed by a testing week where teams were required to pass a series of comprehensive safety tests in order to be eligible for a run in the vacuum tube, and then finally the competition day.
Our goal was to build a prototype that is both realistic and scalable. The pod is a complete maglev system, using Halbach arrays for levitation and Halbach wheels for propulsion, thus minimising friction. A pressure vessel rests elegantly on top of all the mechanical components, which is large enough for a life-size dummy resting comfortably on a leather seat. All components were designed with high modularity in order to increase the flexibility in design and manufacturing. Last but not least, a robust software system was developed for autonomous navigation and control system. The resulting pod is 3.6 x 0.75 x 1.2 metres in dimension, and we were the largest pod amongst all competing teams. The chassis was made in carbon fibre to keep the pod as light as possible.
There have been many challenges before and during California, throughout the design and manufacturing periods. To begin with, we were full-time students and were doing this in our spare time for the past year. Workload could become very intense, but everyone was motivated and committed, allowing our final design package to be approved by SpaceX and getting us through to the final competition. Manufacturing began after the design stage in May. There were a few unforeseen incidents that caused delays in our production, however, we had a dedicated team in Edinburgh to ensure that all components was ready to be shipped to California.
Being announced as one of the top six teams and Elon Musk visiting the pod himself were the best moments at SpaceX. We did not pass all the tests due to technical difficulties and thus were not able to compete on the final day. Despite our shortcomings, it was truly an unforgettable experience. Since we spent so much time under the same roof, our team got really close and became really good friends.
At the beginning of my final year, I was eager to engage in some technical projects at the university and was attracted by HYPED during the first software team meeting. At first, I thought we would spend all of our time designing and manufacturing the prototype, but HYPED is actually a lot more than that. Aside from regular socials, there have been plenty of events that members could participate. For example, presentations, conferences and exhibitions. These events were not only fun and eye-opening, but also allowed us to meet elites from many different fields. It has been an exciting and memorable year with HYPED.