Teams can either build an entire pod, create a design for one or focus on a specific pod component.
(TNS) — For any student engineer, the bragging rights would be tough to top.
SpaceX, the private spacecraft company, announced Monday an open competition for engineering students to design and build test pods for the hyperloop, CEO Elon Musk’s proposed high-speed transportation system.
SpaceX will supply the test track — a 1-mile tube adjacent to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. Competing teams will test their pods inside the tube over the course of a weekend, tentatively scheduled for next June.
“While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype,” SpaceX reported Monday in a brief statement on its website. “For this reason, SpaceX is announcing an open competition, geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build the best hyperloop pod.”
Musk unveiled the hyperloop concept in 2013, envisioning a future in which travel between cities takes place inside sealed tubes, with passenger pods racing as fast as 760 miles per hour while floating on a thin cushion of air. He pitched the idea as a faster, cheaper alternative to California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project.
But in an unusual move for a notorious workaholic, Musk chose not to build the hyperloop himself, saying he already had enough responsibility leading SpaceX and Tesla. Instead, he invited others to pick up the idea and run with it. Two private companies have already formed to develop their own versions, with one planning to build a small-scale hyperloop in the Central Valley.
In February, Musk suggested via Twitter that he might build a hyperloop test track for others to use, possibly in Texas. And he floated the idea of holding an annual student “pod racer” competition. As outlined by SpaceX, however, next year’s pod competition in California will not include passengers. Neither the tube nor the test pods will be built to full scale.
Teams can either build an entire pod, create a design for one or focus on a specific pod component. Designs will be vetted in person by SpaceX and Tesla engineers during a “design weekend,” to be held in early January at Texas A&M University, according to a five-page set of contest guidelines released Monday.
While the competition is primarily for students, companies interested in getting involved can sponsor teams, helping fund and build the pods. SpaceX will probably build a pod of its own, but only as a demonstration.
Teams have until Sept. 15 to sign up on the SpaceX website.
And what will the winners win, other than unbeatable street cred for an engineer? That’s still to be determined, when full contest details are released in August. For now, SpaceX is offering would-be contestants nothing but encouragement, telling them simply, “Break a pod!”
©2015 the San Francisco Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.