Hyperloop – RMIT team VicHyper helps set the pace (and why Mia is a sponsor)

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Hyperloop ultra-high-speed ground transportation systems are not as far away as you might think, and there’s a Victorian university team in the race. We’ve jumped onboard the VicHyper pod to show our support.

It was recently brought to my attention that a team of Victorian university students (VicHyper) is among the pace-setters of a global competition to design and develop a new and revolutionary form of transport, known as Hyperloop.

Naturally, I was immediately excited and thrilled by this: how better to showcase Australia’s talent and simultaneously make technology appealing and relevant – not to mention cool – to today’s younger generation?

And Hyperloop is very cool indeed. It has been touted as the ‘fifth form of transport’ (after cars, trains, boats and planes) and theoretically consists of a magnetically levitated ‘pod’ moving through a tube network under a partial vacuum at ultra high speeds (of up to 1200km/h), made possible by minimising drag and friction.

Hyperloop has been touted as the ‘fifth form of transport’
Hyperloop has been touted as the ‘fifth form of transport’

Hyperloop stands to transform modern business commuter behaviour – imagine travelling between Melbourne and Sydney in under an hour without the hassle of air travel?

Which brings me back to VicHyper – a team of 21 engineering and industrial design students from Melbourne’s RMIT University, who are among the final 30 teams (and the last remaining in the southern hemisphere) in the ‘SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition’.

This global open-source competition is being run by US aerospace company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), and personally overseen by SpaceX CEO and brains behind the Hyperloop concept, Elon Musk. Its purpose is to develop the Hyperloop concept and promote high-speed ground transportation systems. After the competition was announced in June 2015, 120 teams (out of over 1000 entries) presented their design concepts in Texas during January 2016, leaving just 30 teams in the race to develop a functioning prototype to compete in the track competition, to be held in Los Angeles at the end of this year.

This is all exciting enough, but RMIT’s VicHyper – up against massive teams from educational giants across the world – has already made its mark, winning the Braking Subsystem Technical Excellence Award in January’s design phase of the competition. (The MIT Hyperloop Team took out the Best Overall Design Award.)

RMIT’s VicHyper won the Braking Subsystem Technical Excellence Award in January’s design phase of the Hyperloop competition
RMIT’s VicHyper won the Braking Subsystem Technical Excellence Award in January’s design phase of the Hyperloop competition

After hearing all this, it was a no brainer for Mia to become a sponsor to support VicHyper’s journey to the track phase of the competition. The team is currently working hard to design and build a functional prototype Hyperloop pod ready for transportation to Los Angeles, where it will be tested on a Hyperloop track built by SpaceX.

This type of competition is so important for many reasons, not least for the opportunities it is giving the members of the VicHyper team on multiple levels. Not only are they making influential industry contacts and gaining important technical experience, but they are passing on their experience and passion for technology via school career days and industry presentations as well. They’re also helping to put Australia – Melbourne! – on the map as advanced technology leaders.

VicHyper_3

The project also hits a #TechDiversity note too, with students of many different nationalities taking part. Okay, so there’s only one female engineer on the team… But as a female aerospace engineering student in a heavily male-dominated industry, Maria Pandelidi can now stand as a role model for young women who are considering careers in ‘science, technology, engineering and maths’ (known in the education sector as STEM). This is something very close to my heart.

What I’m also excited about? The Mia logo will now feature on the VicHyper pod as it hurtles towards the speed of sound through the tube during the competition… We’ll be sure to bring you photos.

The team is still seeking corporate sponsorship to propel it towards Los Angeles, and it has a crowdfunding campaign going as well. Check out the VicHyper website for further information.

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