Seven Texas A&M teams competed at Hyperloop competition

TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop

Adviser: Dr. Mobile Benedict

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is the fact that building something like the Hyperloop has never been done before. So while some of the engineering problems teams encounter may be solved with old solutions or by adapting old solutions to new problems, others may require whole new solutions.

Heading into the competition, the TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop team believed it had solved one of these engineering challenges with a whole new solution, a novel air bearing system that allows its pod to hover using minimal air. It was one of the things that the team thought would make its design stand out.

As it turned out, they were exactly right. The team won the award for Levitation Subsystem Technical Excellence, and was selected as one of the teams that will get to build its pod and test it this summer in California. 

“Seeing the judge’s reaction and winning the subsystem award, it was one of those solidifying points where, if nothing else, it was a confidence booster that we got this side down,” team captain Matthew Connelly said. “Now we’ve just got to make it work.”

Connelly, a senior from Murphy, Texas, doesn’t want to go into too many specifics of their air bearing design because the team has filed for intellectual property protection on it. In fact, the team didn’t even want to answer all of the judges’ questions at the competition, and the judges had plenty of them after they presented.

 “They were impressed,” he said. “They were surprised that we could achieve the power that we were getting out of the system. They had some questions that we were sort of disinclined to answer because we’re applying for intellectual property on it.” 

By advancing to the next stage of the competition, Connelly’s team will get a chance to answer the biggest question of them all, can the team make it work? It is confident it can.

“All of our tests have shown that it’s going to work,” he said. “We’ve 3-D printed a model to show that it will work. We’ve tested it down in the lab. Now it’s all about machining and manufacturing.”

The team of 35 students came together from a couple of aerospace engineering classes, and one of its main goals in the competition wasn’t just to win the competition, but to make sure its design could be carried to full scale. However, that creates some issues when just looking to create a small-scale competition pod.

“Some of our ideas are great for the full scale model when we’re putting into production on a massive scale,” Connelly said. “But because this is a half scale competition at slower speeds and overall smaller, we have to see what we can cut and what we can make simpler. The more complicated the system the more likely it is to fail.”

Connelly, who will be going into the Air Force after graduation, said one great thing about the Hyperloop Competition was that Texas A&M Engineering got to be in the spotlight for a few days.

“It was really cool to host it here,” he said. “To see the different ways everyone approached the problem was really interesting. There were so many creative ideas; it was really cool to see that play out in the competition. And as a university, we got to show off our campus. We got to tell everyone about how cool A&M is and really get some exposure we don’t always get because we’re kind of out here in an oasis in Texas.”

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Aggieloop

Adviser: David Kanipe 

Texas A&M’s Aggieloop team was comprised of students from across multiple class years and disciplines in the college of engineering who came together to compete. They were brought together by their desire to work on something completely new.

What brought them together, according to senior industrial engineering major Ryan Coelho, was the fascination with being able to work on something new.

“One thing that makes us different is definitely our passion, it’s how we approached the whole project,” Coelho said. “As soon as they announced it, we were enthralled with the idea of participating.”

Coelho’s teammate Tyler Paschal, a senior mechanical engineering major, added that this group faced challenges with allocating time and finding resources, but that being part of the Hyperloop competition has been worth the effort.

“We’re not doing this for a grade or for a teacher,” Paschal said. “We’re all going to school. We all have other things going on. But we wanted to contribute to this project because it’s something new. It’s never been done before. To be able to be part of that progress is amazing to us.”

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Society of Flight Test Engineers

Adviser: Dr. Diego Donzis

The Society of Flight Test Engineers was the only Texas A&M SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition team comprised of a student organization.

The group, which is hoping to eventually become a member of the nationwide Society of Flight Test Engineers, was made up of aerospace engineering students of all ages. Junior Charles Noren said the competition was invaluable from an experience standpoint and for Texas A&M as a whole. 

“I think getting to say that A&M Engineering is hosting this competition shows how far forward and how munch progress we make as a school at developing that next level of innovation,” Noren said. “This should show every engineer who wants to be one of those top-level designers, that wants to be a game changer, that they should come to A&M.”

To help solve some of the problems they ran into, Noren had to turn to other disciplines within the college of engineering. In fact, he wanted to make sure to show some gratitude toward one department in particular that helped them throughout the design process.

“Our team is mostly aerospace engineers, and we ran into some interdisciplinary challenges so I got to go to the mechanical engineering department for the first time,” Noren said. “After seeing what those guys do I have mad respect for them. We definitely owe them a lot on this project.”

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Texas A&M Hyperloop Alliance

Adviser: Dr. Mark Holtzapple

The Hyperloop Alliance team’s full system design had one of the boldest designs of any of the teams in the competition with its approach not just to the pod itself, but also to the entire tube concept. The team wanted to make the loop itself much wider.

“We had a really good presentation,” team captain Nick Mora said. “We talked about everything we wanted to in the time we had. The judges were a little disappointed that they only had 10 minutes to ask us questions.”

Morand also said that being part of one of the A&M teams hosting the event was a great experience overall.

“Being part of A&M, you’re in a way, the face of the competition,” Morand said. “You bring it upon yourself to really interact with more teams than maybe you would have and that’s been really cool. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people from all over the country and all over the world. I think this is exactly what A&M needed to put its foot down as one of the main engineering schools in the country.”

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HyperWhoop

Adviser: Dr. Charles Culp

Comprised of students from the colleges of engineering, science and architecture, the Texas A&M HyperWhoop team embraced an interdisciplinary approach to the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition.

Originally two separate teams, HyperWhoop came together after the two original teams met at an early mixer for the competition.  Sophomore aerospace engineering major Katie Schneider said that having those different perspectives is what its design apart from other teams. 

“Engineers are needed obviously, this is an engineering project,” Schneider said. “But there’s been multiple times that one of the architecture students said ‘What if it could do this?’ and at first all of engineers said it was impossible. But then you start thinking about it, and step-by-step it becomes possible. Having people with that different mindset really helped.”

Schneider said that she walked around the Hall of Champions saying ‘Howdy’ to as many teams as possible, and enjoyed getting to share the team’s ideas with teams from around the world.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about Texas A&M and how friendly everyone has been,” Schneider said. “Everyone keeps saying the people are incredible.”

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Hullabaloop

Advisers: Dr. Bill Schneider and Dr. Andrea Strzelec

Advised by Texas A&M Department of Mechanical Engineering professors Dr. Bill Schneider and Dr. Andrea Strzelec, Hullabaloop originally started as two teams in the fall. Senior mechanical engineering major Andrew Warren said merging the two senior design classes together proved to be one of the biggest challenges the team faced, but also helped bring countless ideas to the table. 

“Everyone has a different idea at the start,” Warren said. “When we first combined we had two totally different ideas. Overall we’ve done a really good job and I think it’s helped us.”

According to Warren, teams in the competition basically only have Elon Musk’s original Hyperloop white paper to work off of, but Warren said Schneider and Strzelec encouraged them to not even let that be a constraint.

“They said not to just build something that we think SpaceX wants, it’s for us to learn how to design something,” Warren said. “So whatever we do, make sure we think it’s the best.” 

The team members said the experience of working on a complete idea from concept to design is something they think will help them after they graduate.

“This taught us so much about how to interface with people and work with different parts of a huge project,” said teammate Connor Mitchell. “The team management and project management, time constraints, costs, these are things you don’t normally get in a classroom setting.”

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RB3Designs

Adviser: Dr. Tracy Fullerton

Consisting of just four people, RB3 Designs was one of the smallest teams in the Hyperloop Pod Competition, but it was slightly bigger than when it first began. For the first proposal it consisted of just one person, sophomore engineering student Rodrigo Barrera III.

They’re all sophomores, and Barrera admitted they lack both the experience and manpower to put together some of the complicated designs the other teams had. However, they chose to focus on a subsystem that they think other teams will pass over.

“We’re focusing on safety features because I think safety for the humans is going to be a problem at 750 miles per hour,” he joked.

He echoed the sentiments of many of the teams, which is that one of the most exciting aspects of the Hyperloop is also the most challenging.

“The Hyperloop is a brand new thing, so there’s nothing to go look up,” he said. “Basically whatever we do here is going to be on the books.”