SpaceX Hyperloop competition a hub for ideas, creativity

Arx Pax Labs Inc. sales and business development representative Scott Santandrea speaks to a gathered crowd about the company's hoverboard, on display at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition Weekend on Friday afternoon at Texas A&M University.

Excitement buzzed throughout the Hall of Champions at Texas A&M University's Kyle Field on Friday as students from more than 20 countries gathered to kick off the first day of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition Weekend.

Despite the competitive nature of the event, participants from nearly every team roamed the rows of booths, interacting with others out of the sheer joy of sharing ideas.

Many, like Texas A&M Hyperloop Alliance team member Nick Morand, spent the day doing their best to soak in the experience.

"You have to appreciate the moment since there's never going to be another one like it," Morand said.

According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the Hyperloop would be capable of transporting "pods" of 20-30 people through a 12-foot diameter tube at speeds of roughly 700 mph between regional areas such as Dallas and Houston or Los Angeles and San Francisco, leaving passengers with what would amount to about a 30-minute trip.

As the teams gathered at Texas A&M to share their designs on how to make Hyperloop a reality, team members made no secret they were sizing up their competition -- even if the atmosphere was more congenial than competitive.

Steven Gilliam, a member of the Texas A&M team Hyperwhoop, said there was a certain "validation" in seeing similar ideas crop up throughout other designs and it was particularly exciting to see the "innovations" others had produced.

Morand said that the thing that he noticed most in visiting with other teams is "every team has something unique."

In many cases, what set teams apart was the aspect from which members chose to frame their designs.

Some, like Hyperwhoop, chose to place their emphasis on the future customer while others, like Texas A&M Hyperloop Alliance, chose to focus on simplicity.

Ryan Campbell of the Texas A&M team Aggieloop said even though his team felt like they were up against "stiff competition," they remained confident in the designs that they had come up with.

Finally getting the opportunity to spend time around others who had been working to solve some of the same problems, Campbell said that the scope of the event really hit him.

"I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself," Campbell said. "That's always a common phrase that people use here at Texas A&M and when you do something like this, you really feel it."

While the Hyperloop may have begun as an idea just a few year ago, John Mayo, a class of 2014 Texas A&M graduate and current master's student at MIT, said it has since become something more.

"Hyperloop is not [an] eventually, Hyperloop is now," said Mayo, who participated in the competition as a member of the MIT Hyperloop Team.

He said while touring the other teams' booths, he was impressed by all of the varying ideas and solutions that they presented.

"When I was walking around, talking to different teams, they all had very good reasons for why their pods were different," Mayo said. "None of them seem like they're horrible ideas. We're all together in this and it's just about understanding why we all chose to do what we did."

More than anything, Mayo said that what drove him -- and what he believes drove many of the other participants -- is a desire to "improve technologies for humanity."

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