Gainesville Engineers Bring Elon Musk’s New Vision to Life
Somebody like Elon Musk often seems unreal, like an untouchable, mythological mad scientist. We’ve all heard of him and his incredible projects, but it’s difficult to comprehend or believe that what he proposes exists outside of fiction.
Gainesville, Musk is closer than you think.
A bright team of student engineers from the University of Florida is on a mission to make one of Musk’s visions, the Hyperloop, a reality. Gatorloop, comprised of 55 undergraduate and graduate students from UF, is one of 30 teams left in a subscale pod design competition. The group advanced to the final stages of the competition after presenting their designs in Texas in January, where over 120 teams competed.
Developed by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX, the Hyperloop is a concept for transportation that would allow a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco (just under 400 miles) to take about 35 minutes. While that sort of technology could build a financial empire bigger than anything we’ve ever seen, Musk’s perspective is bigger than money, as he open-sourced his designs and thoughts and invited engineers all over the world to take a crack at turning his vision into reality.
The Gatorloop team was started by Taylor Waber, a 23-year-old graduate student of aerospace engineering at UF, Sebastian Quesada, an aerospace engineering student, and mechanical engineering student Ben Duncan. The three held meetings to see what the interest would be for pursuing a Hyperloop project on campus, the first of which attracted over 100 students. The team trimmed itself down to under 60 people, with various engineering backgrounds and experience.
So what’s at stake for the Gatorloop team? The official date for the final part of the competition has not been announced yet, nor have any prizes for the winning team. Waber said he is certain that involvement in designing revolutionary technology will result in invaluable connections and job offers after graduation. Grace Everitt, the team’s head of marketing and entrepreneurship, says the chance to be a part of something so revolutionary is part of the prize, itself. Unlike the academic world they’re used to or conventional competitions, there’s no tangible reward for the work they are doing.
“There’s no grade,” Everitt said, “No guarantee.”
While early summer in Gainesville is generally regarded as downtime, it’s hard not to get excited about the Gatorloop team’s work. The city and university are no strangers to scientific breakthroughs (i.e. Gatorade), but too often we’re looking back in time to appreciate them. This team deserves every bit as much of a marching band as the athletes in the O’Connell Center or Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and you have the chance to lead the cheers. Building futuristic technology ain’t cheap, and the team is still working toward its funding goal of $20,000. If you’ve got the means, you can donate to their GoFundMe campaign here.
Let Gainesville’s brightest loop you into the future.