MADISON, Wis. - Imagine cutting your travel time between major cities down from hours to just minutes. If you're up for riding in a pod that shoots through a tube at high speeds, that could soon become reality.
The system doesn't exist yet, but cutting-edge work from a group of UW-Madison students may help make that a reality.
The 50-60 undergrads, known as the "Badgerloop" team, have spent a lot of time on campus building and perfecting their innovation: A pod designed to reach top speed in a hyperloop, which is like a train rail surrounded by a vacuum tube, so there's no air resistance. The idea is to cut down on transportation times from cities that may be too close to book a flight between, but still a long drive.
The pods can travel at speeds of up to 100 mph and are made out of a strong, but lightweight carbon-fiber outer shell.
"The whole idea of the hyperloop pod and hyperloop technology is to push the boundaries of how fast you can go on ground transportation," said Jack Swanson, the industry relations lead on the Badgerloop team. "It will kind of supplement planes trains and automobiles as another method of high speed transportation from city to city."
While the team says that reality is likely far off, it could be the future of transportation.
The public is invited to check out the Badgerloop's pod April 17 at the Memorial Union. It's the team's fourth pod; they enter them every year in a worldwide competition.
The fourth annual SpaceX Hyperloop Competition is this summer. That's where the students' pod will go head-to-head with more than a dozen other university-led teams from around the world. There, the Badgerloop team will be judged on only one thing: maximum speed. The team has sent a pod there every year since the competition began, and although they haven't won the top prize before, they say their experience might just propel them there this year.
"We've reused a lot of that design and learned from those mistakes we've made and innovated on those designs to make it a lot better and a lot more feasible for the actual competition," said Swanson.
The Badgerloop team is one of the few invited to the SpaceX competition every year since it began. This year's competititon will be held in California this July.
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