The Badgerloop team unveiled their latest pod on June 17 in the Engineering Hall to the public. This coming August, they will take their pod and travel to Hawthorne, California to compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition II.
Sponsors and community members got up close to the pod and talked with Badgerloop members who worked on different aspects of the pod, including electrical systems, virtual reality, propulsion, feasibility and more.
Badgerloop is a student organization at UW-Madison comprising of mostly undergraduate students. Their goal is to innovate new transportation methods via the Hyperloop, an idea first proposed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The Hyperloop is a system where pods travel through depressurized tubes at high speeds reaching upwards of 700 miles per hour.
This past January, they won an Innovation Award at Competition I for their previous pod design. In addition, they were the only team who had Elon Musk sit in their pod.
While their previous pod was focused on scalability, featuring virtual reality capabilities and a seat designed for a person of Elon Musk’s height, their new pod is about maximum velocity, according to Chris Rushmore, UW-Madison undergrad and the structural design lead of the team. He went on to explain that at Competition II, they will be judged by the raw speed of their pod. Their new pod was completed in just six months.
“All in all, I think we have a good chance of placing this year,” Rushmore said.
Compared to their old pod, this one was much lighter, making it into an interesting challenging for the composites team. “We analyzed the components of the pod, making sure they’re strong enough, but also making sure they’re not too strong so that it’s extra weight … the carbon fiber shell has gone through a lot of revisions,” said Justin Williams, the structural analysis lead.
Their old design used Halbach wheels, a system of magnets able to lift the pod off the track and propel it forward, increasing its potential speed. However, this time around, Badgerloop’s propulsion team developed a cold gas thruster system to pursue even higher speeds.
The cold gas thruster compresses nitrogen to a high pressure inside a tank, and releases it out the end to shoot the pod forward and achieve high speeds. In fact, this technology is often used by satellites in space. Badgerloop currently estimates that their current pod can reach anywhere from 250 to 275 miles per hour.
“We really took the experience that we gained from Pod I and fixed many of the problems on this pod,” Williams said.
Badgerloop has been a learning opportunity for all members involved, especially Clayton Fellman, a UW-Madison undergrad and the propulsion team lead. “When I first came on the team [this past semester], I knew nothing about rocket science,” Fellman said, “I’ve definitely learned a lot through this process.”
When Badgerloop travels to California this August, they will be one of 23 teams selected from hundreds of teams from around the world. The teams will be competing for places and awards, although in the end, they are all united by the common goal of innovating transportation systems using Hyperloop technology.
Mitch Wall, a member of the braking systems team, said, “I’m looking forward to going around and seeing what everyone else is trying out, because we’re all trying to solve the same problem.”
Badgerloop’s pod is an impressive example of how collaboration can lead to innovation and learning opportunities for all. While a mass transit system based off of Hyperloop technology may be quite a ways off, the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition will help talented teams and individuals to share their ideas and move us closer to a better future.