This summer, together with over 30 students from HYPED, The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team, we went to California for the annual SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. The event was to bring to a close more than 10 months of our work. However, this didn’t mean we were going there to rest and enjoy the sunny beaches of the West Coast.
As soon as we got there, we rushed to work on our prototype, The Flying Podsman, an homage to UK’s legendary train. We had less than a week left to assemble the pod and work on any issues left. Ahead of us was the Testing Week. Each team had to pass more than one hundred tests in order to get to the final of the competition. A feat not easy to achieve.
Having worked tirelessly during these several days, powered by coffee and the amazing team spirit that motivated everyone to always do things on 110%, we were ready for the first tests at SpaceX.
And there we were. Surrounded by the concrete desert of central Los Angeles, 21 teams of students hoping to revolutionise transport.
Having the experience from the two previous editions helped our engineers to power through the first stages of the Testing Week. When we thought everything was going to go smoothly, the things started to go south. To our disappointment, when teams from the Switzerland and Germany, our closest competitors, were rushing through the remaining tests, we have encountered a problem with one of the modules.
The way in which the Competition is set up meant that, unless we repaired the faulty subsystem, we wouldn’t be able to proceed with any other tests. We rushed back to our house knowing that not everything is lost and we can probably still repair it.
Fast forward to 4 AM, three days later, we found ourselves connecting the last working electronics board to the pod to see for the one last time whether the faulty subsystem will eventually work. We flicked the switch.
Here, I would like to write about the team members cheering, or at least the sparks and some noise. What we experienced was silence. A terrifying silence marking the end of our dream – running our prototype down the tube.
Even though we didn’t manage to qualify to the top 4 teams that actually run their pods in the tube, the SpaceX Competition was an exhilarating experience. Wrapped up by Elon Musk, the event marked another year of progress in a transportation revolution in the making. With our prototype being certainly one of the most ambitious designs, we aim to come back next year. More experienced and with an even better design.