Texas Guadaloop and 512 Hyperloop Compete this Weekend at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition II

James McGinness, team lead for Texas Guadaloop with Chad Kassem, build lead. with the frame of the Guadaloop pod.

Earlier this month, in the basement of the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall at the University of Texas at Austin campus, James McGinness worked with his team to put the final touches on a transportation pod for Texas Guadaloop.

McGinness, team lead for Texas Guadaloop, graduated with his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from UT in May, but has spent his summer along with Chad Kassem, the build lead, and other members of the 20-person team working on the pod.

Texas Guadaloop is one of two teams from UT Austin competing in SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Competition II. The other team is 512 Hyperloop. The teams have not collaborated, McGinness said.

Altogether, 24 teams comprised of more than 600 students from colleges and universities worldwide will compete this weekend.

The UT teams don’t get class credit for their creations. They are not paid. But they have raised some money along the way to get their creation from the basement to the track at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. this weekend. The road to Hawthorne has been a long and windy one for Texas Guadaloop.

“When we started this, I hadn’t even started at UT yet,” McGinness said.

The hyperloop idea goes back to a paper Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, wrote in 2013 that came up with the idea for the high-speed ground transport in pods. In 2015, SpaceX announced plans to host a competition for teams to design and build a half scale Hyperloop Pod.

In January 2016, Texas Gudaloop presented its design to SpaceX but it wasn’t selected to compete, McGinness said. Teams selected presented their pods at the first SpaceX Hyperloop competition in January of 2017. SpaceX liked the results so much they put on the second competition for this summer. And Guadaloop was selected to compete in the second hyperloop competition.

On Friday, the teams began testing their pods with a series of inspections for fitness and safety.

Texas Guadaloop’s pod weighs 1,200 pounds and is 14 feet long and more than three feet wide. It has one of the larger, and heavier pods, said Kassem, who used to build race cars.

On Saturday, those cleared for competition “will compete with one criterion: maximum speed,” on a one-mile track with successful deceleration (which means no crashes), according to SpaceX.

Speeds on the track could exceed 200 miles per hour, McGinness said. But the Guadaloop pod team will be happy to crack the 100 miles per hour milestone, he said.

“If we hit 100 miles per hour on air bearings, no one has ever done that before so that’s kind of what our goal is,” he said. “That would at least prove the fundamentals that there is something there to the idea.”

Air bearings are pressured air that levitate the pod, McGinness said. Most teams are using magnetic levitation, which has been around. There’s even a couple of teams using wheels on their pods, McGinness said. Out of the 24 teams, less than five are using air bearings, he said. The 512 Hyperloop team is using magnetic levitation.

“We would love to win, that’s obviously a goal, especially winning on air bearings, but we really want to get on the track and show this idea works,” McGinness said.

The Texas Guadaloop team didn’t outsource any labor, they did it all in-house, McGinness said. They did all the welding and machined everything in-house, he said.

“This has felt like my full-time job for two years,” McGinness said.

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