Badgerloop’s run for hyperloop glory captures the attention of Elon Musk

By Judy Warner, Altium

musk_badgerloopIn 2013, Elon Musk introduced the concept of a Hyperloop transit system in a white paper. He proposed a completely open source approach to its development and invited universities to participate in a pod competition. SpaceX funded the construction of a near-mile subscale version of a vacuum tube in which to trial pods for the competition. For the first competition, only 3 pods would earn an opportunity to win a highly-coveted tube-run based on a set of criteria set by SpaceX.

For all teams, the first step was concept and design. Selected design submissions would be featured and judged at Design Weekend in January of 2016 at Texas A&M. Out of 1,000 design submissions, only 120 teams were chosen to participate in Design Weekend. Not only did team Badgerloop make the cut, they came in third place in the overall design and build category, among an impressive field of global competitors. This secured their chance to build their pod and compete in the first competition in January 2017.

The Badgerloop team size varies throughout the academic year and summer from 30-80 members. Castle is one of about a dozen leads and is the point man for the electrical team. The electrical systems team designed one STM nucleo microcontroller board and shield using Altium Designer that they can reuse as new iterations of pods are developed. They also designed a battery regulation board and a solenoid control board. To streamline the workflow, they developed a subversion network which allowed them to work closely and collaboratively on PCB designs during the summer when team members reside on 2 continents and 3 time zones.

badgerloop_pod_altiumTeam Badgerloop unveiled Pod One in December 2016, and traveled across the country to the first Hyperloop Pod competition in late January. They set their sights high and worked 40-50 hours a week on the pod in hopes of getting in the tube. In a heart wrenching twist, during the inspection process, they inadvertently left the 12 volt battery on, and lost all power. They found a substitute power supply that completely fried the electronics systems which extinguished all hope of making a tube run. Since the pods were autonomous and subscale in size, none of the competitors put in a passenger seat, except for Badgerloop. They also installed an audio system inside. Leading up to and during the competition the team had been continuously tweeting Musk to invite him to come sit in their pod. SpaceX engineers assured the team Musk would never show up. Additionally, their pod was staged about a ¼ mile away from the podium where Musk delivered a brief speech before disappearing from the event. A while later, crowds began to gather and move toward the Badgerloop pod. As it grew closer, Elon Musk emerged to greet the Badgerloop president and team. Musk declined their invitation to climb aboard despite the team pleading, “we built this for you!” Finally, someone from the crowd shouted, “GET IN THE POD!” Musk smiled and crawled into the Badgerloop pod for a quick photo op. The team went wild. Read more …

The 8 minute video from the competition and moment with Musk is priceless!

– University Research Park’s @1403 is a proud sponsor of the Badgerloop team.

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