I know what you’re thinking – Hyperloop technology sounds like something from a science-fiction movie. Elon Musk, aka the real-life Tony Stark, invented the electric line of Tesla cars and released the patent to the public, a move which was unparalleled and is set to open the market of sustainable personal transportation options into the future. In addition, he runs the SpaceX program, the world’s first independent space contractor. On top of all that, he is actively working to put people on the face of Mars.
Back in 2013, the innovator revealed his idea for the Hyperloop, the universes answers to sustainable personal transport. While sitting in Los Angeles traffic running extremely late for a keynote presentation, he thought to himself that there had to be a better way to get around – which is when the Hyperloop came to him. Basically, it’s kind of like the tubes that the characters of Futurama get around in New New York.
Elon Musk’s groundbreaking vision for the Hyperloop transportation system involves streamlined passenger capsules flying within a tube on a cushion of air. Solar panels while run along the entire length of the tube provide all of the power necessary to have the system run efficiently. The capsules would travel just under the speed of sound at 1,220 kilometres per hour. You could get from Melbourne to Sydney in less than an hour at that kind of speed. The below figure produced by SpaceX shows how the technology would run.
Recently SpaceX announced a pretty exciting opportunity for budding Hyperloop pod designers – a worldwide competition. The finalists would have their designs tested at the company’s world-class facilities in the US, and officially join the race to bring the fictional, yet surprisingly practical Hyperloop to life. Matt O’Callaghan, an engineering student at RMIT, saw an opportunity to be at forefront of a global revolution. After convincing fellowing engineering students at RMIT to join his cause, Matt established VicHyper and assembled a crew of seven people to begin the draining task of designing, building, and raising money for their massive undertaking. Eighteen months later, the RMIT team expanded to a group of 30 students, with more than 25 corporate sponsors. VicHyper became a finalist in the SpaceX competition, and have sent their prototype to California, where it will be tested along with 29 other finalists at the state of the art SpaceX facilities. You can learn a little bit more about how they developed their pod in the video posted by VicHyper below.
VicHyper co-founder and project leader Zac McLelland, 29, says the crew are the underdogs of the competition and understands that US teams have the advantage of being able to test their machines on ready-built tracks that would cost billions to build here. There is also resistance from potential sponsors who are wary of the project, having seen many high-speed rail proposals fail in Australia in the past. Being from country Victoria, Zac quickly came to realise that the technology was vital for Australia to create a better way to get between our cities and regional towns. Focusing on a superior braking system is what set the VicHyper prototype apart during the first phase of the competition, and is what the team believes to be their strongest feature.
In addition to demonstrating forward thinking innovation, the team is also working to break down gender barriers and emphasise diversity with their project team, with many demographics represented in their core unit, promoting inclusivity. Not only has the team garnered corporate sponsorship, but they have obtained support from the Victorian government as well.
*Matt O’Callaghan and Zac McLelland, who are leading the VicHyper project.
We wish the team of RMIT students the best of luck with their project, and at the California finals in January of 2017!