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Monday, December 06, 2021

Badgerloop unveils newest pod design

In a reveal event last Thursday, the UW-Madison Badgerloop team unveiled their new hyperloop pod and discussed their hopes for the 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop competition happening this summer.

The event drew hundreds of parents, sponsors and other students to Varsity Hall at Union South. After discussing the thousands of hours of work performed by the team, they unveiled Badgerloop Pod III, which is designed to be the fastest pod they’ve ever made.

“Many are skeptical of hyperloop, ‘but the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds,’” Badgerloop President Kali Kinziger said at the event, quoting President Ronald Reagan. “We are here to represent the school — Wisconsin — and be pioneers for the future of transportation.”

The team has lofty expectations for this year’s SpaceX Hyperloop competition, which occurs at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. Each competition is roughly a week and a half and is no vacation for the Badgerloop team.

“Most of the time, it’s just like absolute hell,” Kinziger said.

With competitors including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue, Virginia Tech and many others, the competitions demand the very best the universities have to offer.

At Union South, the Badgerloop team was keen to point out their previous successes in SpaceX competitions. After winning a technical excellence award at the first SpaceX Hyperloop design event, the team went on to win two innovation awards at the next two competitions, the only team to do so.

The upcoming competition, occurring this July, is focused on having the teams develop the fastest pod possible while under their own propulsion. To do this, this year’s pod is much smaller and lighter, utilizing a full carbon fiber outer shell.

In a change to previous competitions, the teams this year will no longer utilize a pusher provided by SpaceX to get their pods up to speed and will instead use their own electric motor to provide propulsion. Connected to roughly 20 drone batteries, Pod III aims to reach speeds well over 200 miles per hour.

With speeds approaching that of modern day jet airplanes, much of the development time is spent ensuring the pod’s safety. Equipped with a wireless transmitter, the team can activate a kill switch within the pod that cuts all propulsion power from the engine and slows the pod to a stop.

Ryan Castle, the electrical systems director for Badgerloop, discussed some of the difficulties the team typically experiences when preparing for these competitions. Since the competition requirements change “pretty fundamentally every year,” preparations for each event can take hundreds of hours.

As an electrical engineering student, Castle stated how his involvement with the Badgerloop team overlaps closely with his coursework as well as his co-op. When asked how many hours he puts into the team per week, he replied, “both too many, and not enough.”

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In addition to his full-time engineering co-op, he clarified that he spends between 30 to 50 hours each week in the workshop just for Badgerloop. This type of dedication persists throughout the team, as many team members spent their entire evenings for weeks on end preparing Badgerloop Pod III for the reveal.

Time is not the only resource demanded of the UW-Madison Badgerloop team, as each new hyperloop pod design commands advanced technological revisions. Due to the team’s successes, corporate interest in the team has grown immensely, and with that comes a growing number of prominent sponsorships.

These include sponsorships from companies like Microsoft, Castrol Oil, Rockwell Automation and Cirrus Aircraft. Many other companies are anxious to contribute their technologies and funds to the team as well. Kinziger added that corporate sponsorships for the first competition amassed over $140,000 for the team, with “much more in monetary donations.”

For those interested in joining the team, Castle emphasized that any UW-Madison student interested can join, adding that “anyone who sticks around after week two is on the team.”

While Badgerloop is not only a remarkable success story for the students involved, it also is an impressive showcase for the university as a whole. The SpaceX Hyperloop Competition pushes students to their limits in terms of their scientific expertise and time management, and the Badgerloop Pod III is a culmination of this demanding work among the team.

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