Students place second in SpaceX’s Hyperloop competition

August 30, 2017

Northeastern Hyperloop team ‘Paradigm’ finished second out of 25 teams at SpaceX’s 2nd Hyperloop competition held August 25th-27th in Hawthorne, California.

Dan Hartman and Eddie Hurtig are part of an important project that may very well reshape the way people get from point A to point B — in record timing. Hartman, a sophomore and Hurtig, a fifth-year, are both part of Northeastern’s student-led “Hyperloop” team, once known as OpenLoop but now called Paradigm.

According to Hartman, the Hyperloop works on the premise of high speed levitated travel without the presence of air friction. The train-like pods are suspended magnetically in tubes that act as vacuum chambers, eliminating air resistance and friction, allowing the pods to travel with speeds of up to 670 miles per hour.

“The concept of the Hyperloop, an idea of Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, was thought up to provide a new mode of transportation that is much faster, safer and more energy efficient than the current methods of transportation in use today,” Hartman said, “Musk wrote a technical paper in 2013 explaining how he thought the Hyperloop would work and a few years later he set up an international competition inviting student teams to submit their designs and build their own pods.”

The team’s pod design and safety received high praise from SpaceX and the Boring Company at the competition. Their pod reached speeds of 101 km/hr, landing them in second place.

Hurtig and Hartman, both computer science majors, are just two of the many other individuals putting their talents to work on the project. They have said that students from all disciplines have come to the table to help out, ranging from software and engineering majors to business majors.

“The team is incredibly interdisciplinary. We have a 2,000 pound, 18-foot-long vehicle that has been designed and built from the ground up by students. We have a strong mechanical engineering team building the brakes, suspension, frame, etc. and we also have a solid electrical engineering team as well to build out all the electrical infrastructure that allows the pod to be controlled,” Hurtig said.

Hurtig serves as Paradigm’s Controls and Software Lead with Hartman working under him on the software team. Hartman, originally a biomedical physics major who switched to CCIS in the Spring of 2017, joining Paradigm at the same time, said that working with everyone on the team has been an invaluable experience, and he has learned a great deal about software and programming along the way.

“I didn’t have any prior experience with programming, so most of what I’ve done on Paradigm has been self-taught under the guidance of Ed, the team’s software lead, who is essentially a computer and has been an invaluable resource as well as an amazing mentor,” said Hartman.

As for the competition itself, 24 teams, including Northeastern’s competed in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. There were around 1,200 other team applications submitted to the competition, and Hurtig and Hartman’s team was among those talented enough to be given the opportunity to put their pod to the test.

As for what participating in the competition entails, Hurtig, who is currently finishing up a co-op at Apple, said that he is more interested in the journey he has been a part of and the doors that will open because of this experience.

“There is talk of cash prizes and the like, but honestly, I am focused on researching and building transportation technologies of the future, not a prize or first place. I look at this project as a learning experience, to build something feasible — a true proof of concept to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of air-bearing technology in a scalable prototype,” Hurtig said.

The team hopes to compete again at Competition III next year, and have set goals for even higher speeds.