On Sunday, August 27th 2017, Texas Guadaloop received an Innovation Award by SpaceX at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition ||.

Texas Guadaloop, an engineering team out of the University of Texas at Austin, took home one of two Innovation Awards at the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, held August 24-27th 2017 in Hawthorn, California. Guadaloop designed and developed their hyperloop pod utilizing air bearings to achieve zero friction levitation within the depressurized hyperloop tubing. The team spent the week leading up to the competition testing their pod at the SpaceX facility, aiming to pass extensive testing before competition weekend.

Hyperloop and Air Bearings:
Hyperloop travel was defined by Elon Musk in his “White Paper” in 2013, he outlines a futuristic form of travel where pods levitate and travel at high speeds inside of depressurized vacuum tubes. There are two ways to achieve levitation, through MagLev, magnetic levitation, or air bearings. An air bearing is a pneumatic device which creates a small gap of air between the pod and the track, achieving the frictionless levitation necessary in hyperloop travel. Guadaloop, along with a few other teams, are among the first to apply air bearing technology to high speed travel.

Guadaloop History:
Guadaloop is a team of UT undergrad, graduate and PHD individuals who joined the Hyperloop pod project in 2015 with hopes of changing the way the world moves goods and people. While exhibiting their initial design at Design Weekend at A&M University in January 2016, they were rejected by SpaceX for entrance into Competition Weekend I. Despite not being accepted into the first competition the team received positive feedback and praise for their simple yet effective design and decided to build their pod anyways with no guarantee of recognition or reward. After showing their designs during the first Hyperloop Competition, held in January 2017, their efforts were rewarded with acceptance into the second SpaceX Hyperloop Competition held August 24th – 27th, 2017.

Guadaloop spent the spring and summer of 2017 working tirelessly to develop and build a pod that would prove air bearing technology was suited for high speed travel. Along with building 90% of their pod in house, the team partnered up with 512, the second UT team competiting with SpaceX to build a 150ft. long test track at J.J. Pickle Research Center in Austin. Guadaloop’s aim was to test their air bearing technology while giving future generations of students the chance to explore their own vision of the hyperloop.

Furiosa, Guadaloop’s air bearing pod:
Their air bearing pod, aptly named Furiosa due to their scrappy “do or die” attitude, features a very simple design with the sole aim of testing air bearings at high speeds. The fully autonomous pod cleared every functional test required by SpaceX, including the vacuum chamber and navigation tests. Although the team was not able to race their pod on competition day, they did impress SpaceX by showing off their simple yet efficient prototype.

The air-based levitation exhibited by Guadaloop had a larger gap height, the height between the pod and the track, and had a smoother, more frictionless glide than SpaceX had seen to date from an air bearing competitor. Guadaloop believes that by demonstrating the feasibility of air bearing levitation in this way they have achieved their goal of pushing the air bearing concept forward, and they expect to see far more air bearing pods at the next competition.

Their creativity and perseverance carried them through to the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition while their simple yet innovative pneumatic levitation system lead to an Innovation Award by SpaceX. Of the teams awarded, Texas Guadaloop was the only first-time competitor. It is impressive that a team with less competition experience was recognized amongst a field of seasoned veterans. The team looks forward to using the knowledge they gained to come back to Competition Weekend III and demonstrate air bearings at high speed.