SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend

SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend Embry-Riddle booth

Prescott’s Team Nova Track joined more than 115 teams representing 27 U.S. states and 20 countries at the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend Jan. 29-30 in College Station, TX. SpaceX received over 1,200 entries which put Nova Track in the top 10% of all entries. 

Embry-Riddle Nova Track SpaceX Hyperloop team

They did a great job representing Embry-Riddle," said Sam Siewert, team advisor and engineering faculty. "It was my pleasure to accompany the team and to participate as a judge. Describing and presenting a design to such a wide range of audiences from public to VIPs to judges is no easy feat. In addition to presenting for the judges, the team met with company representatives to pitch their ideas for possible funding including Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, at the team booth." 

“This was a great experience,” said Max Starkel, Nova Team lead. “We talked to over 40 different VIPs from industry where we had to be not only the engineer but the marketing person competing for funding to produce our design. We even talked to reporters from BuzzFeed and Greenwire. That’s a level of real-world that goes far beyond the classroom and will definitely help us in the future."

Foxx kicked off the weekend with a keynote message about the importance of students’ work as young innovators and the future of transportation however the highlight was a surprise appearance by Elon Musk.

“The crowd erupted when Elon walked on stage. He's the equivalent of an engineering rock star,” said Starkel. “It was inspiring to hear how pleased he was with the competition and his hope to have another one next year.”

The ERAU Nova track team entered Design & Build and a Subsystem for Communications — embedded sensors and telemetry for safe pod operations on the test track. 

“We presented our design to the judges and then took their questions. We had to explain the details of our subsystems and justify why we chose what we chose,” said Starkel. “They want to know you’ve thought through the potential issues and that you can defend your choices."

"The team did very well and stood out as a very complete design based on my observations but did not win a design category this year,” said Siewert. "The top three design and build winners were MIT, TU Delft, and Auburn. Many great teams did not advance or win awards and my observation is that winners were based upon readiness to build, completeness and to some extent team size and support perhaps.”

 "It was also arduous as a judge each day, but quite enjoyable and a good learning experience for me as well,” said Siewert. "Judges made use of a rubric that included presentation quality criteria as well as design completeness and quality criteria. Subsystems had a specific rubric as well. I reviewed about 10 presentations in the 2 days including design and build winners Delft University and University of Cincinnati as well as subsystem design category winner Hyped from University of Edinburgh.The winners were heavily supported by industry and their home institutions for example Delft has already constructed a pod and has a test track at their lab, so very competitive entries."

"Overall, it was a very valuable experience,” said Siewert. Starkel agreed, adding that next year they will be even more prepared.

The team now turns their energy on a re-design and obtaining approval as a department-supported Senior Capstone Project.

Check out #breakapod on twitter and Instagram for a recap of the weekend activities.

See the Original Story

Engineers Push the Limits of Maglev in SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

Hyperloop designs for a SpaceX competition

Note: This article was updated Dec. 1, 2015

Elon Musk has conquered the internet, renewable energy, and outer space. On August 12, 2013, he set his sight on high-speed transportation. Nova Track, a team of Prescott Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students, has signed up to help Musk make that a reality thanks in part to a recent $2,500 Eagle Prize from the Undergraduate Research Institute (URI).

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is sponsoring a competition to design and build a 14-foot half-scale Hyperloop pod to test in a functional Hyperloop prototype that solves the design and safety challenges related to high-speed travel in a closed-tube, space-like system at .001 atmospheres. The pod is projected to reach top speeds of 700 mph and will need safe mechanisms to propel and stop it.

Musk’s August 12, 2013 blog details his vision, “If we are to make a massive investment in a new transportation system, then the return should by rights be equally massive…It should ideally be: safer, faster, lower cost, more convenient, immune to weather, sustainably self-powering, resistant to earthquakes, and not disruptive to those along the route. Is there truly a new mode of transport – a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars and boats – that meets those criteria and is practical to implement?”

“Yes, a new mode is possible,” said Max Starkel, Team Lead and senior in Aerospace Engineering. “But there are a significant number of problems that must be solved first. This challenge is pushing the limits of what we know about magnetic propulsion, compression ratios, and software. We have to develop new technology plus adapt current technology and use it in a way that’s never been done before.”

Eli Olson, original founder of Nova Track and junior in Aerospace Engineering, explained that the 11-member group includes Aerospace, Electrical, Mechanical, and Software Engineers, plus an Industrial Psychology and Safety student. Their individual areas of expertise are the perfect combination for this project.

The pod uses electromagnetism for propulsion which is presently being tested in Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains. Magnetic levitation, maglev, allows the trains to hover while traveling, thus reducing friction to zero. Not only will maglev technology produce high speeds but it is the safest propulsion option for the Hyperloop closed-system environment and passenger scenario. 

Tube specifications were recently released from SpaceX, moving the team from research and literature review to the initial design phase where they are tackling the problems of starting and stopping, among others.

“Now we can design in earnest,” said Starkel. “I am not going to reveal our design but I can say that the limitations and restrictions from SpaceX is sparking a lot of passionate conversations. We are all learning valuable lessons about choices and compromise, and especially about budget within a project of this magnitude. This is a real design, a big design. It’s way beyond theoretical and it’s exciting. ”

The Initial Preliminary Design deadline is November 13, 2015. Nova Track hopes to attend and present at the January 2016 Design Weekend in Texas where, according to the website, “the best and brightest engineering minds from around the country and globe” will converge.

For more information on Nova Track, contact Max Starkel at or Eli Olson at

UPDATE: Prescott team advances in competition

Congratulations to the Hyperloop team, which has received an official invitation to the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, on January 29-30, 2016. The SpaceX notification to those moving on indicated they were extremely impressed with the large number of high-quality Preliminary Design Briefing submissions received, and look forward to seeing the full presentations at Design Weekend.

"We all worked so hard on this. It's great to be selected for the design weekend," said Starkel. "Seven of our nine team members will be making the trip thanks to an additional $1,000 grant from the Embry-Riddle E-prize program."

In the next four weeks, the team must finish the design and selection of materials for every subsystem on the pod including safety, braking, computer, and propulsion. Additionally, they must identify a single dollar-value for the cost of building the pod that is below six figures. According to SpaceX "this is one of the true challenges of this competition - creating a safe and reliable system that is financially reasonable to build."

At the Design Weekend, the Embry-Riddle team will present its final design, including the results of computational fluid dynamics computer modeling simulation tests that prove the design will work, and pitch for corporate sponsorship. Teams selected to move forward will meet again at final competition weekend this summer in Hawthorne, CA, where the selected pods will compete at the SpaceX Hyperloop Test Track.

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