UCCS part of ‘sexiest’ design at national Hyperloop competition

Feb. 8, 2016

Joe Hollmann
[email protected]

UCCS, partnered with the Air Force Academy, brought a team of 15 students and faculty members to a competition with their designs of pods for a futuristic mode of transportation called Hyperloop.

UCCS was one of 120 teams invited, hoping to earn grant money to build their design.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, hosted the national competition Jan. 29-30 on the campus of Texas A&M to help design the pods for his conceptual idea of a Hyperloop track, a high-speed, low-pressure transportation system that runs through above-ground tubes.

The track system would be completely weatherproof and run on clean technology, and would travel upwards of 800 miles per hour.

The UCCS/AFA team consisted of a diverse group of designers, ranging from computer science and mathematics majors, to aerospace and mechanical engineering majors.

Radu Cascaval, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, was one of the faculty advisors overseeing the team and their design.

“The challenge was to come up with ideas to make this concept a reality” he said, adding that even though it was a competition, the spirit of the weekend was to elevate the technology as a whole.

“It was a fantastic gathering, none of the students had ever experienced something like this before,” Cascaval said.

Teams were asked to create a safe, scalable and technically feasible design which was then judged individually for the chance of building and testing the pod on a one-mile track in California.

The competition awarded the top five teams grants to build their designs, and invited another 17 to build their pods and test them.

The UCCS/AFA team was not awarded a sponsorship or grant money to continue building, but is looking for other opportunities to contribute to the technology.

Alyssa Ortiz, a graduate student in the applied mathematics program at UCCS and team captain, said they are still looking to partner with other teams such as the University of Colorado at Denver, who did receive a grant to continue to build, acting in the role of a consultant.

“There is still a chance we can test our pod on the track,” she said, as teams can acquire funding from third party companies outside of the competition or from within the university.

“Each team had a specialty in a different subsystem,” Ortiz said, explaining that UCCS’ specialty in the competition was the pod’s design relating to its aerodynamics. “One sponsor who came around to many of the pods said we had ‘by far the sexiest design’ they had seen.”

Though the team was not awarded funds to build the pod design, Cascaval stressed the importance of the beginning of the innovation at hand.

“We don’t want to hang our coats and forget about this,” he said. “We want UCCS and the Air Force Academy to champion this technology.”

Both Cascaval and Ortiz agree the technology is plausible within the next five years, but at a smaller scale. They believe intra-campus and intra-city transportation are the most realistic options.

“How long has it been since transportation has been fundamentally changed?” Ortiz said.

The team will make a public presentation, sponsored by the Green Action Fund, on Feb. 17 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in University Center room 302.