This Quidditch-Playing Criminal Justice Major Is Helping Build the Transportation System of Tomorrow

Samantha Kaputa puts her public relations skills to work as a spokesperson and sponsorship liaison for Hyperloop at VCU.
Samantha Kaputa puts her public relations skills to work as a spokesperson and sponsorship liaison for Hyperloop at VCU. (Photo by Brian McNeill)

By Brian McNeill
University Public Affairs

Samantha Kaputa is studying criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University with plans to pursue a career in law enforcement, maybe in the CIA or as a K-9 police officer.

She’s also on VCU’s Quidditch team, playing the positions of beater and seeker.

And she’s the treasurer of Hyperloop at VCU, one of only 20 teams from around the world to advance to the final round of this summer’s 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition — a race to design and build the best transport pod for Hyperloop, a high-speed ground transport concept by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“We should definitely at least get into the top five,” Kaputa said. “Our team knows what it’s doing. We have so many people who are so invested and believe so strongly in us. And with the drive that our team has, I don't think there's anything that's going to stop us.”

While many of VCU’s Hyperloop members are students in the College of Engineering, Kaputa — a rising junior in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs — was recruited to the team by its founder, VCU student Arthur Chadwick.

“Arthur is one of my very good friends. I've known him since freshman year in Cabaniss Hall where we met. He was on the seventh floor and I was on the third. Cabaniss is kind of secluded on the other side of campus, so all of us became really close,” she said.

Chadwick knew Kaputa was interested in photography and social media, and thought she would be a valuable part of VCU’s Hyperloop effort.

“When he was starting Hyperloop, it was just kind of a slight dream of his,” she said. “He just needed people that he trusted who could take on different responsibilities. He needed a treasurer, secretary, vice president, president. He trusted me, so I became treasurer.”

Chadwick said Kaputa has “always been there for me and for the team.”

“Becoming a student organization, we needed a treasurer. She was like, sure I'll do it. She knew nothing about it, but that was OK. None of us did,” he said. “We wanted [to launch our Hyperloop project], so we just started doing it.”

Kaputa’s duties have included outreach to potential sponsors, helping to arrange funding as a student organization, and working on fundraising.

“My role was to be one of the people who would talk [to potential sponsors] and get them really interested in Hyperloop and show them that this is something that you should invest your time and money into,” she said.

This spring, when Hyperloop at VCU became part of the College of Engineering’s Vertically Integrated Projects program — which provides students with an opportunity to work on multiyear, multidisciplinary, team-based projects — Kaputa took part, mostly from the business side of things.

“She joined the course along with me and most of the other leads,” Chadwick said. “We used that time to plan out what we were going to be doing [for Hyperloop].”

Kaputa also took on some public relations duties for Hyperloop, serving as a spokesperson and liaison with sponsors and other partners.

“One of the things I like doing is public relations,” she said. “That's one of the things you have to be able to do for police work. You have to be able to communicate and have a good relationship with the public.”

As a criminal justice major, Kaputa has a concentration on forensic crime scene investigation. She wants to work in law enforcement, she said, because she wants to serve the community.

“Law enforcement can help the overall population and society,” she said. “There’s a lot of negativity about police out there. I want to help change that. And law enforcement just seems really interesting to me. I don't want to be behind a desk for a career. I want to be out doing something, interacting with people, and helping the public.”

When she’s not studying criminal justice or working with the Hyperloop team, Kaputa can be found playing with the Wizengamot Quidditch Club of VCU. The sport is a real-life, full-contact version of the game played in the Harry Potter novels.

“I’m beater and seeker. Seeker’s the one that tries to grab the ‘snitch,’ which means I get the crap beat out of me,” she said. “And beater, you basically hit people with balls. It's pretty fun. It's a contact sport. … It’s a really fun sport.”

While Kaputa will not be able to travel with the Hyperloop team to the finals in California — she’s working two jobs at restaurants in Washington and Northern Virginia this summer, along with an internship at a wildlife preserve — she will be rooting for them from home.

“It’s been a really cool experience working on Hyperloop,” she said. “I've learned a lot of things about engineering that I probably never would have otherwise. And I've learned about this new advanced form of transportation that's going to be coming to the world soon enough.”