Washington Hyperloop: Transforming the Future

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Last July, Washington Hyperloop, a University of Washington Engineering team, landed a stunning first place finish among all U.S. college teams and fourth in the world in Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Pod Competition. In 2019, they aim to finish even higher by improving on last year’s winning design.

What is Hyperloop? It is an ultra-high-speed ground transportation system that Musk proposed in 2013 to radically transform the way we get to travel. Small pods would travel in an elevated low-pressure tube at speeds potentially over 700 MPH. A 350-mile ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take approximately 35 minutes.

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In 2015, Musk’s company SpaceX announced it would host a Hyperloop Pod Competition to support the development of functional prototypes. The company encouraged innovation by challenging student teams to design and build the best high-speed pod. Three competitions were held in January 2017, August 2017, and July 2018, and were the first of their kind anywhere in the world. This year’s competition will be held in the summer at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The submitted prototypes will race through their test Hyperloop system, which is approximately one mile in length with a six-foot outer diameter. As with previous competitions, judging is based solely on one criterion: maximum speed without crashing. All pods must be self-propelled and undergo thorough design analysis and safety checks before racing.

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The avid students who make up Washington Hyperloop include a diverse array of majors including electrical engineers, physicists, mechanical engineers, computer scientists, business administration, human-centered design, and materials science. The team functions like a start-up, and their success is born from their collective effort. Nick Wood, the Washington Hyperloop’s Business Lead says, “Washington Hyperloop serves as an outstanding opportunity for UW students to learn experientially, push themselves, and grow both technical and soft skills in a real-world environment.”

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After two years of using electric-motor propulsion, Washington Hyperloop switched to a cold-gas thruster system powered by 14 kilograms of compressed nitrogen. Their unique approach not only earned them a first-place finish among U.S. college teams but also got the attention of Musk who came over to inspect their pod.

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This summer’s competition brings much excitement. Whatever the result, the student-led process to creatively push the limits of technology has already made Washington Hyperloop a winner. We are proud to sponsor them.

“Pagliacci Pizza’s sponsorship epitomizes what it means to be a community-focused company,” Wood says. “By catering our team events, Pagliacci is helping us grow closer as an organization and experience the gift of community. Being able to work alongside some of the most talented students at the University of Washington, while enjoying a slice of Seattle’s best pizza? Pagliacci is changing the game for us.”