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Queen's team aims to build on 1st stab at Hyperloop contest

A group of Queen's University students competing in a global competition to build an ultra-fast transportation pod failed to take the big prize in California last weekend, but they did manage to make a name for themselves.

'Big wheels' pod design falls short of SpaceX safety standards amid stiff competition

The Queen's University hyperloop design team in California with the hyperloop pod they've built. (Supplied by Matthew Filipovich )

A group of Queen's University students competing in a global competition to build an ultra-fast transportation pod failed to take the big prize in California last weekend, but they did manage to make a name for themselves.

The 11-member team designed and constructed their vehicle as part of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition.

The brainchild of Tesla co-founder Elon Musk, the Hyperloop is a space-age transportation concept where people would travel great distances at high speed through low-pressure tubes. 

Matthew Filipovich, senior levitation engineer with the Queen's Hyperloop Design Team, told CBC Radio's All In A Day they had about two months before the competition to start building the pod they had designed.

The fourth-year engineering physics students said each member of the team was assigned a specific responsibility.

"Everyone there was crucial," Filipovich said. 

Big wheels

While the Queen's team didn't win the contest, they did become known as "the team with the big wheels," Filipovich said. 

He said in order to stand out among the 21 competitors, they chose to use motorcycle wheels on their pod.

Fillipovich, who was in charge of designing and manufacturing the wheels, said there are a lot of elements to consider when designing a pod to travel in a near-vacuum.  

"We're not in a regular atmosphere, so there's a lot of mechanical elements like the bearing lubrication, heat flow in a vacuum other than in the atmosphere. So there's a lot of thought that went into those different aspects of the top wheel." 

This was Queen's first time attending the SpaceX hyperloop competition. (Supplied by Matthew Filipovich)

Only 4 pods tested 

In the end, only four of the 21 teams got to test their pods in the SpaceX testing tube. The rest, including the team from Queen's fell short of the safety standards set by SpaceX engineers. 

Still, Filipovich said the feedback they received will be used to improve next year's pod design. 

"It was our first year going down there so we didn't know exactly what all the tests were going to be. [Now we know about] some very specific elements that we were unable to incorporate into our first design." 

A team from Technical University of Munich won the competition for the fourth consecutive year. 

CBC Radio's All In A Day

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