Hyperloop at VCU team’s pod vehicle design passes first hurdle

Student team seeks to return to international SpaceX competition finals

A group of Hyperloop team members at RVA Makerfest in 2018
From left: Hyperloop at VCU team lead Harrison Powers and engineer Matthew Petrie, a supporter of the team, at RVA MakerFest.

The Hyperloop at VCU student team, which made history last year as a finalist in the 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, has advanced past the first stage of the 2019 competition.

“We started our design right after the last competition,” said Arthur Chadwick, president of Hyperloop at VCU and a mechanical engineering major. “It’s great seeing all the hard work from the team members pay off.”

SpaceX, which is proposing Hyperloop as a transit solution for the future, is hosting the fourth international contest to design and build a pod vehicle that can race at high speeds through a futuristic tunnel.

Based on the preliminary design briefing the VCU team entered this fall, SpaceX has notified the group that it has moved on to the next round and can submit a final design package this winter. The finalists will be invited to compete in the summer of 2019. The competition will be judged on one criterion: maximum speed. All pod vehicles must be self-propelled and be able to come to a stop without crashing.

Hyperloop at VCU began in September of 2017 with more than 40 undergraduate students from engineering, business, arts and humanities and sciences. The group competed against veteran teams from all over the world — some with years of experience under their belts.

Ten months later, the VCU team was one of only 20 finalists — and just nine in the U.S. — who advanced to the finals in July 2018 at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The VCU team showcased its pod vehicle and completed many qualifications and tests at the final event.