RIT Student Team Wins Innovation Award at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition


An interdisciplinary team of undergraduates from Rochester Institute of Technology won a Special Innovation Award at the SpaceX Pod Design Competition held at Texas A & M University, Jan. 29-30.

The students received the award in the subsystem category for their novel approach to tube diagnostics and optical communication for the proposed futuristic high-speed rail system. They were one of nine teams awarded in the subsystem category. RIT President Bill Destler and the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science sponsored the team.

SpaceX and Tesla employees judged the projects.

Hyperloop is a new paradigm of transportation envisioned by Elon Musk in 2013. Cruising at 760 mph between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Hyperloop is poised to revolutionize transportation.
Travelling in an evacuated tube above the ground diminishes the drag force of atmospheric air and allows passenger travel at high velocity with low energy consumption.

Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, is one of several seeking to accelerate the development of a system prototype. Musk proposed a national challenge–to build a scaled-down pod model and necessary Hyperloop sub-systems.

Two undergraduate teams from RIT participated in the design weekend. They were among 115 U. S. and international universities vying for the opportunity to contribute to the Hyperloop concept, a multi-passenger pod or capsules speeding through a series of depressurized tubes.

Their designs include a high-speed communications system and a sensor system to detect faults in the walls of the tube that could impede the motion of the pod. Both are relatively new technologies applied to a higher speed environment.

“It is an entirely imaging-based method,” said Kristina Carucci, a second-year motion picture sciences major. “Other traditional methods that are used to scan tubes, like oil pipelines, would not work in this case. Scanning the walls of the tube will use what is called ‘structured light,’ and it is commonly used to make 3D maps of stationary objects for scientific purposes. But it has never been used at such high speeds.”

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