Elon Musk’s Hyperloop development project is being transported full-speed to Ohio State by the Buckeyeloop club.
Buckeyeloop is a student organization dedicated to bringing hyperloop technology to the Midwest by designing and competing their own parts of the Hyperloop system — Musk’s newest project for a high-speed ground transportation system.
In August 2013, Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, published his proposal for the Hyperloop Alpha — a transportation system consisting of capsules traveling through a vacuum-powered tube. The system would be capable of carrying passengers 389.1 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco with a travel time of only 35 minutes, according to the proposal. Since then, more hyperloop-structured projects, including Virgin’s Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’s HyperloopTT, have emerged and are developing.
Building and sustaining the Hyperloop Alpha and other similar projects comes with many challenges. These challenges are exactly what inspired John Bill, Jacob Auvil, Patrick Lee and Joseph Gorsuch, all third-year students in mechanical engineering, and Claire Bednardski, a fourth-year in international relations and diplomacy, to establish Buckeyeloop in spring of 2020.
“There’s been a few companies working pretty heavily in developing the technology and making it a reality, as well as government involvement and feasibility of projects in various places throughout the world,” Lee said. “It’s all still very early stage, which is why we think it’s such a cool time to be founding a student org where we can actually have an impact in the industry.”
Auvil said the three main goals of the club are to connect with industry professionals on hyperloop projects, have members work together to create their own hyperloop projects and designs, and hold and partake in competitions involving hyperloop projects.
What sets the club apart from other engineering clubs is their aim to explore hyperloop-related economic, environmental and governmental policy, not just mechanical and engineering aspects, Bednarski said.
“We’re going to be pursuing research projects into political feasibility; is this technology and engineering going to get passed? Is it going to be able to be implemented through our government? How is it going to impact the environment?” Bednarski said. “We’re just really looking at all aspects of this field and what impact it is going to have on every aspect of everyday life.”
After the club’s first information meeting held in January, it has attracted about 70 students interested in some aspect of the club, whether it be engineering and design, competition opportunities or attending events, Lee said.
Gorsuch said the club is open to virtually all students, regardless of educational focus.
“We are interested in anyone who’s interested in the technology,” Gorsuch said. “Come to us and we’ll have a spot for you. We’ll be able to accommodate people that are interested in engineering like us, but there’s also people interested in economics and policy. And all those things sort of slot into rolling out a new technology like this.”
Buckeyeloop plans to hold events with engineering industry speakers to present about the newest technology, and they are planning for a case competition scheduled for Feb. 27, where students can practice their own presentation and problem-solving skills by proposing and presenting a solution to a problem, Lee said.
The club also has a couple of design competitions in the works, and they hope to have a team to eventually compete in the future at the SpaceX Hyperloop competition, which has been canceled this year due to COVID-19, Auvil said.
Design competitions such as the SpaceX Hyperloop often have competitors building prototypes of hyperloop vehicles and systems, Gorsuch said.
The founding members hope to secure a partnership with the project Virgin Hyperloop One, Auvil said. This would allow students to learn about new exclusive technology and innovations as well as make connections with professionals.
“One thing we’re really really excited about is building a partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One,” Auvil said. “They are the leading hyperloop technology organization in industry right now, and we’ve had some recent phone calls with people from their executive suite.”
Lee said his favorite part about Buckeyeloop is getting to use the knowledge that he’s gained through his engineering courses at Ohio State.
“I think getting hands-on experience is one of my favorite things about OSU,” Lee said. “It’s a hands-on school. I think that a lot of students will also be super excited to be able to research design and actually build something useful and real.”