Rice Hyperloop started its second year at the start of the semester, and club president and founder Gentry Clark is excited for the possibilities it gives to students.
“We’re designing and building a pod for competition,” said Clark, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student. “This is a great project! We’re racing a high-speed train down a vacuum tube. We’re looking for people who think that’s cool, too. We need members who can help fundraise, who can help build, who want to be part of this exciting idea.”
He’s not talking about just another engineering competition. The Hyperloop Pod Competition, hosted by Space X, centers around revolutionizing terrestrial transportation. The California company that shot a Tesla into space encourages innovators at colleges and universities around the world to come up with solutions for high-speed transportation technology. The competition started in 2015, with a goal of supporting the development of working prototypes. The competition’s current speed record is 290 mph, set by the WARR Team from Technical University of Munich this past July.
That’s what Clark and his fellow club members are doing – and he’s hoping more engineers, as well as those who find the idea cool, join.
“During Hurricane Harvey, when campus was closed, I found out about the Space X competition,” said Clark. “And I thought that would be something great to do.”
In a matter of weeks, he launched Rice Hyperloop
, and throughout last year, he and the other members worked on design ideas for the competition.
Like many challenges open to college engineering students, the Hyperloop Pod Competition has two stages. First, clubs and teams submit their preliminary designs.
“It’s a bird’s eye view of what you think you can create,” said Clark.
If that proposal is accepted, teams submit their final designs several months later. From this pool of teams, finalists are chosen. Those finalists go out to the Hyperloop track in Hawthorne, Calif., a mile-long tunnel with a six-foot outer diameter, where they’ll race their pods.
“We didn’t make it to the final design stage last year,” said Clark. “But we did a lot of groundwork that we are building on this year. Last year was such a massive learning curve – both in establishing a club and in this project. “
Clark is hoping other Rice students will share his enthusiasm. Everyone is welcome, he says. He sees this as a chance for the tech savvy and tech curious to use their skills, and an opportunity for those who might be unfamiliar with the technology to be part of something fun.
Clark says that founding the club has been a learning curve. He readily admits that he made a mistake in not working harder to keep members involved when the team didn’t advance to the competition round last year. But now, he said, he and the other Hyperloop members are heavily engaged in the design process, building on their efforts from last year. And he’s convinced they can go the distance.
Rice Hyperloop meets every Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in the OEDK
basement. Gentry said he looks forward to welcoming new members.