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Meanwhile, a group of MIT Mechanical Engineering students had the same idea and was forming a team of its own. The two groups learned about each other and, after the inevitable AeroAstro and MechE rivalry subsided, they joined forces to make one large team to represent MIT — a decision that proved instrumental to the team’s success. Over the course of the year the team grew to approximately 30 students, with representation not only from AeroAstro and Mechanical Engineering, but also from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Sloan School of Management. The AeroAstro contingent comprises graduate students Philip Caplan, Rich Li, Max Opgenoord, Philippe Kirschen, and Derek Paxson. The first three are on the Aero/Structures team; the latter two on the Levitation team. The competition has two phases: a design phase and a build phase. The former culminated in January 2016 at a design weekend at Texas A&M University in which our team showcased our design with a display booth and 20-minute presentation to judges, the public and other competing teams. Much to our surprise, we won best overall design! Since then we’ve put the finishing touches on our design (including addressing some rules changes), prepared for manufacturing, and conducted testing.

FIRST PROPOSED BY ROBERT H. GODDARD The rapid rise in popularity of the Hyperloop concept would lead one to believe that it is a completely new idea. However, as is the case with most modern engineering designs, it is really a re-combination and rebranding of concepts that have been around for more than a century. Every aspect of the pod outlined in SpaceX’s 2013 white paper, “Hyperloop Alpha,” from the high-speed air bearings, to the large compressor to alleviate choking, to the basic concept of high-speed evacuated tube transportation has been proposed in the past. As early as 1909, Robert H. Goddard, best known as creator of the first liquid-fueled rocket engine, proposed high-speed passenger-carrying pods traveling in an evacuated tube. Even more closely resembling the Hyperloop Alpha concept was a design proposed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Professor Joseph Foa as early as 1947 for a fan driven, air bearing suspended train travelling in a tube. Modern battery technology will allow for the system to be greener, replacing Foa’s fossil fuel burning gas turbines with an efficient electric compressor, but the basic concept remains the same. What Elon Musk has done for the technology


AEROASTRO 2015-2016

MIT AeroAstro annual magazine 2015-2016Aeroastro 2015 16  

Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.

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