Virginia Tech Hyperloop Team to compete in national competition, hope to contribute to future

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Students at Virginia Tech are trying to contribute to the next big development in transportation.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system using a passenger-carrying pod in a near-vacuum tube that is envisioned to reach speeds in excess of 700 mph. The brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, Hyperloop took a step closer to reality in 2016 when more than 120 teams participated in an international design competition at Texas A&M University. Elon Musk has recently committed to building a Hyperloop transportation system between New York and Washington DC, making the work of Hyperloop at Virginia Tech that much more relevant.

The team will show off its ideas to companies building the new form of transportation later this month.

Before Virginia Tech's Hyperloop pod is shipped to Hawthorne, California for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition happening on August 25-27.

They'll join other young people trying to get involved in the high speed travel project

Hamza Ahmad is the Hyperloop at Virginia Tech Testing Leader.

He said, "You're taking the new generation of engineers, you're taking the new people who want to innovate, and you're throwing them into an experience that they've never had before."

The teams will put their pods on a half scale test track, to showcase what works, and what doesn't.

Pat Artis, the Project Advisor, explained, "This is not the kind of thing you want to do a full scale build out, and then realize things could have been different."

Artis is a Virginia Tech Professor of Practice in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering.

The team said companies like Hyperloop One and SpaceX have already integrated some ideas from last years competition into their projects.

Ahmad said, "There's a lot of adaptation going on and at the same time, the companies like SpaceX and Tesla are taking those engineers working on the teams that we have and putting them in their own companies."

This year, Virginia Tech's unique idea is a propulsion system made from a missile tank donated by Orbital ATK which will turn on halfway through the run, speeding them up even faster.

Team Leader Andrew Gubanox explained, "We're looking to add on to add on to whatever they give us 45 miles an our, on a high, up to 60. Overall speed, we're looking at around 160-180 miles an hour."

The interdisciplinary Virginia Tech team has consistently placed fourth in the previous two rounds of the international competition (up against schools like MIT, UC Irvine, Purdue, UT Austin, Warsaw University of Technology, ETH Zurich, etc.).

The team is confident, now, they can win first in this year's competition with the new propulsion system.

Gubanov was asked with all this technology being tested, when does he think we'll see Hyperloop available for people to use?

He answered, "The technology, in a sense, is there. The infrastructure isn't, we have a ways to go to work on it. But I think it's within the lifetimes of the people that are actively working on it right now."

The team will be working all weekend finishing the pod and then it will take off for California on Monday.

Twelve students will go down on August 20 for the competition.

Then they will take the red eye flight back on the 27th so they're back just in time for their first day of the school year.

The team added, in order to continue their work they need community support. Pat Artis said donations to the team can be made to him or the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech to help the growth of the project.