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AZLoop keeps pace, but doesn’t race, with top contenders in international competition to create the future of transportation


Lack of track time keeps AZLoop pod off SpaceX test track

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Hawthorne, Calif., Aug. 27 – After spending thousands of hours and many sleepless nights building a high-speed pod, an Arizona State University-led team of some 100 college students from across Arizona placed among the top eight contenders in the SpaceX Hyperloop II Pod Competition today.

After a grueling week of technical reviews and tracks tests, only three teams earned the honor of propelling their pods down a 150-ft, I-beam track at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne today. The singular objective: build and test the fastest pod.

Eight teams met all the technical and safety requirements to compete, but five of those, including AZLoop, were unable to compete in the final round of testing due to lack of daylight and not enough time for all eight teams to complete trial runs in the SpaceX tube.

AZLoop – made up of engineering and business students from ASU, the ASU Thunderbird School of Management, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff – was one of three wholly U.S. teams to make the final eight. All eight teams were tied in points, but the testing schedule necessitated allowing only a few teams to conduct final readiness testing in the tube. The other U.S. teams were BadgerLoop from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and HyperXite from University of California, Irvine.

Paradigm, a team from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and Northeastern Boson University, did make the final three – but pressure issues in the tube prevented the team from making a full run, although it did achieve a speed of 90 km/hour.  The other two teams to make a competition run were WARRLoop from the Technical University of Munich in Germany, which achieved a record run of 324 km/hr,  and SwissLoop from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, which had two runs, reached 39 km/hr and experienced brake failure. 

“This year it is all about maximum speed,” said AZLoop Co-Lead Josh Kosar.  “And no crashes.”

"The team did an unbelievable job – going from essentially a standing start months ago to finishing near the top,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “What they created was indeed an engineering feat, and the passion, energy, drive and commitment put forth by everyone was amazing. My hope is that this experience empowers and inspires these students and others to continue to push the limits on innovation.”

Hyperloop is a conceptual, high-speed mode of transportation introduced in 2012 by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk. Hyperloop pods, Musk proposed, would levitate on I-beam tracks at speeds of up to 700 mph in a partial vacuum inside a continuous tube. Musk originally planned an aboveground route from Los Angeles to San Francisco; he is now developing plans to build an underground Hyperloop tube from New York City to Washington, D.C.  

Although the AZLoop team has been working toward today’s run for two years, AZLoop went into hyper drive in April when it learned that it was one of 24 teams – from an initial field of more than 1000 – to be selected to bring a pod to SpaceX to compete. 

Designs were submitted, reviewed, refined and reviewed in exchanges with SpaceX that ultimately resulted in an invitation to compete. “We are extremely impressed with your design and are excited to see what you will build,” said SpaceX in a letter to the team on March 31.

And that’s when the AZLoop Hyperloop pod development began in earnest.

In a move not undertaken by any other team competing in the competition, AZLoop partnered with ASU engineering alum Chris Kmetty, a construction engineering manager at Markham Contracting Co. Inc., to build an open-air, 150-foot test track on ASU’s Polytechnic Campus. Markham provided the materials and labor, and ASU provided the venue. 

“Other teams have 10- or 20-foot tracks to test braking systems,” explained AZLoop Co-Lead Lynne Nethken.  “But no other team has had the opportunity to do on-track testing and refinements of all the pod’s components. That track definitely gave us an edge.”

Kmetty was such an AZLoop champion that he travelled as an advisor with the team to SpaceX for the competition.

To build this year’s Arizona team, Kosar and Nethken reached out to students across Arizona, attracting teammates from a range of majors, including almost all engineering disciplines, robotics, physics, astrobiology, marketing and business management.

“What’s really unique about our team is that we’re a conglomerate of schools across the state of Arizona,” said Nethken.  We’re competing in this so we can establish ourselves as an innovative, fantastic group of students that represent the State of Arizona.”

ASU is the primary AZLoop sponsor, providing the team’s lab on its Polytechnic Campus, securing the land and necessary permits for the track, and working with a range of sponsors to generate funding for the team – totaling in the range of $1 million.

“Our management team, the support we get from ASU, is undeniable. They really believe in the project,” said Earnest Poteat, team production manager. “It’s a direct relationship between the people that are supporting us from the top, and the leadership they’ve instilled here at this level.”

What’s next for AZLoop?  “We’ve got the right team, we’ve got the right backing, we’ve got the right resources. The timing is right,” said Kosar, noting that the team’s long-term goal is “to actually bring a Hyperloop [route] to Arizona.“

Nethken echoed Kosar’s thoughts. "We’ve considered AZLoop to be a multi-year project from the start,” said Nethken. “This competition enabled us to worked out the mechanics and pass all of the technical and safety tests – and now we have a track on which to perfect our systems going forward. 

"Most importantly, we are perfectly positioned to start working with municipalities and businesses in earnest to bring Hyperloop transit to Arizona."

Photos (and captions):

Team with Pod:  HAWTHORNE, CA - Aug. 27, 2017 - ASU Now - Hyperloop Competition - AZLoop team members pose with the pod for a group photo during the final round of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition on the SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne, CA, on Sunday, August 27, 2017. While the AZLoop team was one of the top point earners in a week of tests, it was not one of the three finalists to race in the 1.25-kilometer long Hyperloop vacuum chamber. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

COPYRIGHT: Copyright Arizona Board of Regents

Team in front of booth:  HAWTHORNE, CA - Aug. 27, 2017 - ASU Now - Hyperloop Competition - AZLoop team members pose with their pod during the final round of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition on the SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne, CA, on Sunday, August 27, 2017. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

COPYRIGHT: Copyright Arizona Board of Regents

Sharing Info with other teams: HAWTHORNE, CA - Aug. 27, 2017 - ASU Now - Hyperloop Competition - Alberto Ibernón, with the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia in Spain, looks over the AZLoop team's pod at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition on the SpaceX facilities in Hawthorne, CA, on Sunday, August 27, 2017. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

COPYRIGHT: Copyright Arizona Board of Regents

High Res photos here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xg79m44wmy2lt64/AACgKQ6_Tw_jgoJ0poLdnkr6a?dl=0

Video Links:

Broll:

 AZLoop broll 7_15: https://vimeo.com/229440195

 AZLoop broll 3_31: https://vimeo.com/211049788

 AZLoop broll 3_31: https://vimeo.com/210856467

 AZLoop track broll: https://vimeo.com/230180480

Video Stories:

 AZLoop update video 6_30: https://vimeo.com/223847364

 AZLoop team advances 3_31: https://vimeo.com/211133230

 AZLoop braking system: https://vimeo.com/205113794

 AZLoop competition team: https://vimeo.com/204268606

 AZLoop pack for California: https://vimeo.com/230683281

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Terry Grant, Arizona State University
Theresa.Grant@asu.edu 
480-727-4058 (O)  (520) 907-2248 (C) 

communications coordinator, Media Relations and Strategic Communications