The next morning, they submitted a 19-page document
to SpaceX addressing the issues raised. And within 24 hours,
they got another email: “Congrats, you are going through to
Competition Weekend!” OpenLoop was now one of just 31
teams that will be competing at the end of this summer in
California, showing off their prototypes. But among the details
for moving forward, the Hyperloop team cautioned: “This will
be an enormous amount of work.”
Since then, the OpenLoop crew has indeed been hard
at work. And they’ve had some outside help, in the form of
funding, sponsorships and donations from various companies.
Each of the six schools has kicked in $10,000 towards the
creation of their prototype. Hyperloop One—the company
behind the viral test video—has signed on as a sponsor, offering
them another $10,000, advice from their engineers and a visit to
the company before Competition Weekend. KVH Industries, a
telecommunications company, donated a sensor worth $20,000
that senses the pod’s orientation and acceleration. And a huge
get was sponsorship from a precision manufacturing company,
Rhinestal AMG, who agreed to build their pod’s frame.
Some of these companies, like KVH, are just interested
in seeing how their technology performs in a novel scenario
like this one. “It’s a really interesting use case for them,”
Parker says. Plus, it could put them on SpaceX’s or Hyperloop
One’s radar down the line, if and when the Hyperloop starts
to become a reality. Others, Parker suspects, want to use this
competition to find and recruit engineers to come work for
For his part, Parker isn’t ultimately interested in working
on transportation systems after he graduates. “This, for me, was
mostly a really great way to get leadership experience before
actually getting out of school,” he says. He also liked that it
could actually have an impact on the world. But Parker’s main
interest is 3-D printing. He built his first 3-D printer when he
was 14, and had created several more by the time he graduated
from high school. This summer, he’s working for a company
developing 3-D printing in space.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW!
Parker is eager to see how their pod performs on the mile-long test track that SpaceX is building in Hawthorne, Calif., for
the competition. He’s not concerned with how fast it’s able to
go, which some other teams are focused on; rather, he wants
it to shoot down the track smoothly, “like it’s on a cloud.” He
wants to look at the data and think, “I would ride that from San
Francisco to L.A.,” he says.
It’s not clear what will happen to OpenLoop after
Competition Weekend, partly because SpaceX hasn’t officially
declared whether the competition will continue on after that.
But Parker thinks he’ll probably switch back to focusing on 3-D
printing. Whatever happens with OpenLoop, though, it has
already been successful as far as Parker is concerned. Working
on and leading a team like this, he says, is a great educational
tool, teaching things that coursework simply cannot.
Hyperloop Competition Weekend is scheduled for Jan.
27-29, 2017. There will undoubtedly be some buzz about it—so
if you see “Hyperloop” trending on Facebook early next year,
make sure to click on the link and see whether OpenLoop won.
“THIS, FOR ME, WAS
MOSTLY A REALLY GREAT
WAY TO GET LEADERSHIP
ACTUALLY GETTING OUT OF
— Nick Parker
A rendering of the OpenLoop pod’s fuselage, including logos from
many of the team’s sponsors.
Stephen LeDrew (left) and Luke Tilley (right), students at Memorial
University of Newfoundland and members of OpenLoop’s Air Supply
Team, keep inventory.