Hyperloop pods will probably use linear induction motors, says
Parker isn’t worried about patents or intellectual property
claims on any of these things they’re creating. Everything
will be made public domain, hence the name “OpenLoop.”
And should the team win any prize money, each campus will
donate their share of the money either to their endowments or
LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN
The Hyperloop competition unfolds in stages, with the
number of teams progressively winnowed. OpenLoop was one
of about 120 teams invited to attend Design Weekend this past
January, where their designs would be judged after submitting
their designs to SpaceX’s Hyperloop committee. Parker and
over 50 other OpenLoopers arrived on the Texas A&M campus,
where they and the other teams set up booths, swapped tips
and stories, and admired each other’s designs.
Then came the moment of truth: the judging. Parker
and the other campus leaders presented their designs to the
judges—a panel that included both SpaceX employees and
academics—and, Parker says, they all thought it went pretty
well. In fact, afterwards, they started getting more attention
from representatives of various companies that were looking to
sponsor some of the teams.
About an hour before the announcement of which teams
would make it through to the next round, a SpaceX engineer
walked up to OpenLoop’s booth to ask two or three very
pointed questions about specific flaws in the design, Parker
recalls. The answers they gave didn’t seem to satisfy him, and
he left brusquely. When the 23 teams who had been selected to
move on to the next stage were announced, OpenLoop was not
Deflated, Parker and his teammates returned to their
scattered campuses and debated what to do next. Parker
wanted to take some time to regroup, rework their designs to
respond to the critiques, and then reach out again to SpaceX.
But others said that they should follow up immediately. “They
ended up winning that argument, and I’m very glad they did,”
Parker says. He sent off an email to SpaceX’s Hyperloop team
the day after the competition, thanking them for their feedback
and briefly addressing two main shortcomings that were raised
by the judges during the Design Weekend competition. He
asked for ten days to address the problems.
The response came almost immediately. “Your team
received a lot of attention today,” the email read. “We want to
send you through,” they continued, but “10 days is too long...
we would need answers by tomorrow morning.”
Parker immediately forwarded the email to the other
campus leaders and started calling his Cornell teammates,
telling them to meet him at the computer lab. “We didn’t sleep
that night,” he says with a laugh. Taylor remembers the night
well. “It was exciting, because we all knew that we could do
it,” she says. “They had told us explicitly—they said, ‘You have
to do X, Y and Z in order to get into the competition,’ and that
made it pretty clear.”
Teams react as the Hyperloop Competition finalists are announced at Hyperloop Design Weekend on the Texas A&M campus in January. About
120 teams were invited to attend, but only 31 made the cut, including OpenLoop.
Tess Despres, a rising junior at Harvey Mudd College and member
of OpenLoop’s Controls Team, is interviewed at Hyperloop Design
Weekend on the Texas A&M campus in January.