Badgerloop plans to reveal pod Tuesday

The UW-Madison Badgerloop team prepares for January's Hyperloop competition held by SpaceX. Photo courtesy of Badgerloop.  

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Badgerloop

Innovating transportation is the goal of one student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Come January 2017, the team of about 120 students will have the opportunity to display their skills and creativity at the first ever SpaceX sponsored Hyperloop competition.

Badgerloop focuses on designing and building a transportation pod than can travel at high speeds in a tube in order to compete in SpaceX’s Hyperloop competitions, which launched in 2015.

Hyperloop is a new idea for transportation first proposed by SpaceX and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk in 2013. Developed to revolutionize short distance travel and improve high-speed rail, like that of California, Hyperloop seeks to be safer, faster and more cost efficient. Inspired by a transportation creation of Rand and ET3, Hyperloop involves high-speed, tube-like transportation via pod. The pods are theoretically capable of travelling up to 780 mph in a vacuum, above-ground tube.

Last January, Badgerloop took third in the initial round of SpaceX’s pod design competition, a design challenge that asks university student teams all over the world to craft a human-sized pod suitable for high-speed ground transportation. About 127 teams were at Design Weekend, and Badgerloop took third, behind only Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Delft University of Technology.

According to electrical engineering and computer science student Jack McGinty, Badgerloop’s marketing team lead, the pod is roughly five feet in diameter and 15 feet long. The pod is estimated to cost $120,000.

“We’re one of the only pods that has the capability to accelerate with the certain technology we’re using, so the speed that we could get up to is pretty fast,” junior life science communications major Claire Holesovsky, Badgerloop's operations director, said. McGinty added that they are limited by the length of SpaceX’s mile-long test track in Hawthorne, California, where the competition will take place.

Based on the acceleration system they developed using Halbach wheels, their angle of acceleration showed the most potential at Design Weekend compared to other pods, McGinty explained. McGinty explained that a Halbach array is an arrangement of magnets that allows for levitation. A Halbach wheel, then, uses that array but in a circle.

“We take two of these and run them on either side of the I-beam which is basically the rail that the pod is going to run on inside of the tube. And we’re going to run them with motors and it's going to generate a magnetic force that allows us to propel ourselves down the tube,” McGinty said, adding that Badgerloop is the first to use Halbach wheel technology in this way.

The Badgerloop team consists of mostly undergraduate students, as opposed to MIT and other teams. Despite this, team leaders are confident their pod will fair well at the upcoming final round.

“It’ll be interesting to see what teams bring down … the most fun aspect is interacting with other teams,” Holesovsky said. “We’re all working towards the same goal of innovating transportation.”

As for real-world applications, Badgerloop sees itself fulfilling the Wisconsin Idea.

“This concept is a real thing,” Holesovsky said, adding that countries like Dubai are already instilling hyperloop technologies. “We’re right along with the tech industry, building a pod, we’re creating designs, we’re looking at all the aspects of an actual company. We’re doing it as undergraduates and graduates, though.”

Badgerloop is sponsored by a number of industries including Cirrus Aircraft and Hyperloop One. A number of professors have made themselves available for mentoring, but only a few are listed as official advisors, including Prof. Daniel Ludois of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Kyle Hanson, faculty associate within Wisconsin Electric Motors and Power Electronics and Dr. Michael Cheadle, Mechanical Engineering.

On Tuesday, the public can catch a glimpse of Badgerloop’s pod at their reveal event, which will take place at the H.F. DeLuca Forum in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery from 7 to 9 p.m. 

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