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VCU students compete in Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competition in California

Starting with more than 600 entries from more than 40 countries, the 11-month-long 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition came to an end Sunday when just three of those teams raced their pod vehicles in the near-vacuum tube at SpaceX global headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

RVAHub Staff

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From the VCU College of Engineering we get the story on some amazing VCU students. Read the full story on VCU’s School of Engineering website.

Starting with more than 600 entries from more than 40 countries, the 11-month-long 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition came to an end Sunday when just three of those teams raced their pod vehicles in the near-vacuum tube at SpaceX global headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Each of the remaining teams displayed their pods in tents lining Jack Northrup Boulevard, creating a festival-like setting with a grandstand positioned near the entrance of the race tube and some 2,000 people in attendance.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stopped at several tents to talk to teams about their designs and ultimately announced the winners.

The reining team from the previous two competitions, WARR Hyperloop from the Technical University of Munich, once again earned the top place with a pod speed of 290 mph. Finishing second and third, respectively, were Delft Hyperloop and EPFLoop.

Going up against many teams that have been here twice previously, VCU’s Hyperloop team had a remarkable showing as one of just 20 invited to compete at SpaceX headquarters and one of only nine United States teams at the competition.

While Hyperloop at VCU was not one of the three teams to race on competition day, this team gave it their all right up to the last moment, passing many tests and completing many qualifications.

“They’ve stayed focused, grinding it through, addressing issues,” said their faculty adviser L. Franklin Bost, M.B.A., IDSA, FAIMBE and executive associate dean of innovation and outreach. “It reminds me a bit of the pits in an auto race where all the teams are still working on their vehicles.

“Some teams pulled out early and the VCU team continued working. They’ve made it through many, many of the qualifications,” said Bost, referencing several teams who withdrew from the competition early for various reasons.

Every team encounters a learning curve and none steeper than the first year, said teammates from University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badgerloop team competing for the third time. Their advice for a first-year team: Go as far as you can go. Complete as many tests as you can complete. Because the learning gained from each of these will be invaluable for next year.

“I think most people feel like they’ve tried their hardest because they have,” said Hyperloop at VCU President Arthur Chadwick. “They’ve been pushing really hard, even harder than they had to catch up to these multiple-year teams.”

Chadwick said not only is he proud of the team’s performance in this competition, he’s also proud of the growth among team members in their individual responsibility and also in the way they work with each other.

“It’s nice seeing people interacting with each other on their own, following up and pushing themselves. People are becoming more intrinsically motivated because they know what they’re doing and see their potential for next year.”

“This is an amazing group of students,” said Bost. “They are dedicated to representing VCU and are doing the absolute best they can in this competition.”

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., his family and several sponsors attended the Hyperloop competition, taking part in the street festival and watching the top pods race.

Rao said he feels extreme pride in this multidisciplinary team of students for what they have accomplished in just 11 months.

“I think you’ve taken VCU to the next level,” he said. “Look at the company you’re in here. You guys continue to elevate VCU.”

Rao said these students are “absolutely at the top” in terms of their ability to function as a large team, in their mechanical engineering skills and their business skills. Now with a full year to incorporate all they’ve learned from this competition and to plan for the next one, Rao said he “is excited about all the future years,” knowing that this team and VCU are at the forefront of innovation that will “make the human experience better for everyone.

“I’m proud of them. I’ve learned so much from them. They are filled with so much optimism and positive energy, talking about what we can do.”

Tired and slightly sunburned from a week of nearly round-the-clock effort, Hyperloop at VCU is heading back to Richmond, heads held high from an amazing journey.

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