UA Engineering Students Take Part in SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition

  • January 21st, 2016
UA students participating in the SpaceX HyperLoop Pod Competition Design Weekend include, from left, Matt Schick, Nash Woodlief, Grace Silverstein, Zach Carmello and Ross Depperschmidt.
UA students participating in the SpaceX HyperLoop Pod Competition Design Weekend include, from left, Matt Schick, Nash Woodlief, Grace Silverstein, Zach Carmello and Ross Depperschmidt.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A team of University of Alabama engineering students is set to take part in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend, a national contest on the leading edge of transportation research.

Five seniors studying mechanical engineering will be among 1,000 students representing more than 100 universities and three high schools at the contest held Jan. 29-30 at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

The teams come from 27 states and 20 countries.

The Design Weekend teams were selected by SpaceX from hundreds of entries to present their concepts to a panel of SpaceX, Tesla and university judges for a chance to build and test their design prototype at the world’s first Hyperloop Test Track being built by SpaceX adjacent to its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

This final phase of the Hyperloop competition will be held in the summer of 2016.

“It will be exciting to go to College Station where we will meet some of the leaders of the project and see other people’s ideas on how to make this technological feat happen,” said Zach Carmello of New Orleans, Louisiana, and a UA team member. “I have gained and will gain a lot from the experience.”

Along with Carmello, team members include Ross Depperschmidt of Flower Mound, Texas; Matt Schick of Coldspring, Texas; Grace Silverstein of Paducah, Kentucky; and Nash Woodlief of Lake Spivey, Georgia. The team’s faculty adviser is Dr. Beth Todd, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The Hyperloop, a high-speed ground transport concept was first proposed by SpaceX and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk in 2013. With the Hyperloop, passengers could travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 30 minutes, radically transforming the speed and safety of passenger mass transit.

Design Weekend, which SpaceX announced in June, is a preliminary competition for students designed to encourage innovation and challenge them to design and build the best Hyperloop transport Pod.

After learning of the contest during the summer, the students formed the team, using the contest as their senior design credit. In fall 2015, the students studied three subsystems of the Hyperloop, choosing to design the transportation system’s station platform including the airlocks, airlock doors, pod turnaround, battery and water tank change outs along with the flow of people and luggage through the station.

The engineering design does not include architectural design of the ticketing area or stairs from that area to the platform, Silverstein said.

“We chose to pursue the station, as it seemed the most manageable for our team of five and presented a design opportunity we felt would be overlooked by a lot of entering teams,” Carmello said. “The station also was fairly open-ended from a competition standpoint, so we were not afraid to be creative in our design choices.”

The results of the competition, including which teams will be selected to compete on the actual test track, will be announced Jan. 30. During the contest, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will discuss the future of transportation during a private event for the student teams.


Adam Jones, UA media relations 205/348-6444,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.