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MIT students win first round of SpaceX Hyperloop contest

"MIT has been involved in so many technological breakthroughs in the past century," said MIT grad student Philippe Kirschen.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 1, 2016 at 3:20 PM

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A team of MIT students took top honors at the Hyperloop Pod Design Competition at Texas A&M University.

But U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said it would take the hard work of many young scientists to solve the transportation problems of tomorrow. He called on all the contestants to become the innovators of the future.

"We have, in our Department of Transportation, the responsibility to not just continue the conventional forms of transportation -- we have the responsibility to continue nudging the future along and stretching along with innovators about how we can move differently, better, more efficiently and cleaner in the future," Fox told the students.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation technology involving the movement of a magnet-propelled pod or capsule through reduce-pressure tubes. It was popularized by Tesla and Space-X founder and CEO Elon Musk, who is one of several entrepreneurs working to develop a prototype.

Over the weekend, teams of college-level science and engineering students submitted their own Hyperloop design concepts for judgement. Their designs were required to address components of the system such as speed, braking, stability, and levitation. More than 100 teams from 27 U.S. states and 20 countries participated.

The design submitted by a team of grad students from MIT took top prize. They will join 21 other teams this summer to test their technology on a mini Hyperloop track.

"MIT has been involved in so many technological breakthroughs in the past century," Philippe Kirschen, captain of the winning team and a master's student in aeronautics and astronautics, told MIT News. "It just makes sense we would help advance what might be the future of transportation."

The winning concept calls for magnets to create lift under the pod, as opposed to having pods levitate on a cushion of air as Musk originally imagined.

There is some debate about the feasibility and practicality of the Hyperloop system -- with doubts about whether or not it is even technologically possible, not to mention economically feasible.

In addressing the competitors on Sunday, Secretary Foxx called on young scientists to dream big but said tomorrow's problem solvers will also need to integrate new technologies with old systems. Innovation will require renovation and consolidation.

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