University of Waterloo Hyperloop team will unveil their latest prototype on July 21, at the University of Waterloo. Register for the event »
Imagine working in Toronto and deciding to zip to Montreal for poutine on your lunch break. Sound crazy? Not to some forward-thinking students at the University of Waterloo.
In 2013, Elon Musk released a white paper outlining his concept of high-speed ground transportation, calling it the Hyperloop. In 2015, to move toward the creation of a functional prototype and encourage creative design among students, SpaceX announced a Hyperloop Pod Competition to design and build a half-scale Hyperloop pod.
Teams from around the world took up the challenge, including students from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Since the first round of competition in California – Design Weekend in January 2016 – the Waterloo team (called Waterloop of course!) advanced through another round – Competition Weekend in January 2017 – to earn a chance to compete in Competition II, from August 25 to 27, 2017.
Competition 1 saw the team’s pod pitted against internationally respected teams at SpaceX’s headquarters. In the first event of its kind anywhere in the world, teams put their pods through a litany of tests. This August, the pods will be judged solely on speed.
Help from sponsors
Nicholas Jelich is a science and business student who looks after liaising with Team Waterloop sponsors, including Javelin Technologies. He says sponsors are the lifeline of the project.
“Without sponsor support, none of this would be possible. Every day we wake up and come to work, we know that.”
Javelin’s sponsorship includes providing 3D printing experience and services, using Stratasys 3D printers.
“The fact that Javelin is collaborating with us just proves how forward-thinking they are,” Nicholas says. “And the magnetic wheel system Javelin is 3D printing for us is a game changer. The system changes the way the pod accelerates – it’s a critical component.”
Javelin helped by printing the outer band of the magnetic wheel (shown below). Inside each wheel is a ring of magnets arranged in a particular combination. As they spin, they generate forces to keep the pod centered on the test track, as well as propel the pod forward. High-speed, brushless DC motors allow for control over the pod, even at high speeds.
Benefits of SOLIDWORKS
The team also relies on SOLIDWORKS 3D design software tools, according to Jimmy Zhou, who is team lead for the pod’s pneumatic levitation system.
“Using SOLIDWORKS allows us to solve engineering challenges, either through designing structural components or mechanical assemblies. We produce solutions quickly and communicate to the rest of the team efficiently, ensuring that everyone understands the concept of the component without having to extensively document it.”
Jimmy says the team also uses Simulation, which allows them to identify multifaceted forms of analysis, such as finding stress concentrations in the frame or finding resonant frequencies for the suspension assembly.
Secrets to success
Just as you’d find with any self-driven start-up, energy is high and dedication runs deep. Students work long hours while attending classes full-time, or working day jobs on co-op terms. Even when on work terms in other cities, they stay connected remotely.
Nicholas attributes their success to an individual, team, and university-wide commitment to the U of W philosophy “ideas start here,” as well as the diversity of the team. Six different faculties are represented on the team, from arts, to math, to engineering.
“We’re a melting pot of different points of view,” he says. “We’re always getting new members with different backgrounds and finding new ways to innovate.”
Team size varies, depending on the time of year; it has reached as many as 150, and 15 to 20 students will be at the competition in California this summer.
Changing the way the world moves
If you ask Nicholas why a student would want to get involved in the Waterloop project, he jumps straight to the big picture. It’s about using green energy to bring people (and products) closer together. He says they all want the same thing – to be part of the next big disruption in transportation. It’s the same reason that students from all over the world were happy to share ideas and experiences when they all met at Competition I – everyone is focused on the end game – changing the way the world moves.
This gave the Waterloo students the best possible learning experience and the chance to come home and make improvements to their design. It’s what they’ve been up to since January, and now they’re ready to show you their work.
On Thursday, July 21, they’re hosting a launch event for Goose II, the latest and greatest prototype pod, and the one they’ll be taking to California. Expect a dramatic unveiling, along with a chance to meet the team.
Ready for launch
Team members have a little extra zip these days as the admin team plans final details for their launch event and trip to California and the tech team refines the final design.
“We’re excited to unveil this technology we’ve been working so hard on,” Nicholas says. “Everyone is welcome to join us on the 21st to see what we’ve been up to. We welcome any and all kinds of support.”
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