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ASU engineering students vying to design transportation of the future

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Josh Kosar, a robotics engineering student, works on the ASU Polytechnic Hyperloop Team’s pod prototype. Photographer: Nick Narducci/ASU

The Hyperloop: a conceptual transportation system that would speed passengers and cargo from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than 45 minutes. Is it science fiction or the future of high-speed travel?

A team of engineering students at Arizona State University believes it to be the latter. So much so, they’re going to present their vision for the future at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Jan. 29-30, 2016.

The ASU Polytechnic Hyperloop team will join more than 120 other teams from universities around the world to present their concepts for a Hyperloop pod.

The futuristic transportation concept was initially proposed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, in August 2013. The proposal envisioned a transportation system running between San Francisco and LA, which would send pods of passengers or cargo traveling through an elevated, low pressure and frictionless tube at speeds of more than 700 miles per hour. The concept was offered in response to California’s commitment to a state-spanning high-speed rail project, which Musk determined would likely fail as a better alternative to driving or flying.

Robotics engineering students Josh Kosar and Lynne Nethken, systems engineering graduate student Samantha Janko, mechanical engineering student Omar Akasheh and electrical engineering student Blaine Farber-Schaefer will be presenting their Hyperloop design at the competition, which has attracted high-profile guests such as Musk and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

“In addition to developing a cost-effective and practical design for the Hyperloop pods, we’re also searching for innovative solutions that other teams may not have considered,” said Kosar, who leads the team. “ASU was recently ranked as the No. 1 school for innovation, and I think that gives us a competitive advantage.”

Members of the ASU Polytechnic Hyperloop Team prepare for a test run of their Hyperloop Pod prototype. Their design uses a fan and a compressor to create a cushion of air for levitation and linear electric motors to propel the pod forward. Photo by Nick Narducci/ASU

Members of the ASU Polytechnic Hyperloop Team prepare for a test run of their Hyperloop Pod prototype. Their design uses a fan and a compressor to create a cushion of air for levitation and linear electric motors to propel the pod forward. Photographer: Nick Narducci/ASU

The ASU team’s design utilizes a fan and a compressor to create a cushion of air for levitation and linear electric motors to propel the pod forward.

“What’s really important is to remember about pursuing a project of this scale is that the system must work as a sum of its parts,” said Janko, who is working on the pod’s controls and emergency management systems with Nethken. “The Hyperloop consists of many different subsystems including communications, controls, propulsion, power, emergency management, all of which must integrate into one functioning pod that can safely and efficiently transport passengers.”

Top teams will have the opportunity to build and test human-scale versions of their pods at the world’s first Hyperloop Test Track, slated for construction near the Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX headquarters this summer.

Though Musk and his companies are not actively working on a commercial Hyperloop, this design competition serves as a way to accelerate the development of a functional prototype. In Musk’s absence, two LA-based startups, Hyperloop Technologies and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have formed with the goal of developing the first functioning Hyperloop system. The former of the two has offered $150,000 in prize money to the teams with the best pod concepts at the competition.

Along with their fellow team members presenting the pod design, students Carly Thalman, Jon Isaiah, Jake Burgraff, Joe Burgraff, Cody Van Cleve, Joey Nguyen, Erik Person, Caleb Carlson, Ryan Kritz, Cameron Smith, James Casey, Anthony Rico and Deep Patel will also attend the competition to give presentations on subsystems and sponsorship costs, and run the team’s informational booth.


By Pete Zrioka

About The Author

Pete Zrioka

After a four-year stint in the United States Marine Corps, Pete earned his journalism degree from ASU. He's been writing in some capacity for the last ten years and looks forward to the next ten. Contact: peter.zrioka@asu.edu | 480-727-5618 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering 

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