AZLoop, the ASU-based Arizona Hyperloop competition team, advanced to the final round of Space X’s hyperloop competition on March 30.
Their design is one of 24 to make it this far, and they will soon build and test their very own Hyperloop, a futuristic mode of transport akin to shooting a train through a vacuum tube.
“I was kind of shocked when we first found out,” said Lynne Nethken, a master's student studying mechanical engineering and AZLoop’s project co-lead along with Joshua Kosar. “Not because I didn’t think we would make it through … it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we finally did it.'”
“We’re the only ones that decided to do this to represent our state,” Nethken said.
Rather than focusing on seniority or test scores, Nethken said AZLoop recruited based on hard work and determination, a philosophy Nethken said was inspired by Michael Crow.
“We don’t focus on what your background is, what your skill level is,” Nethken said. “This very diverse team we have created has definitely contributed to our success.”
Although she is not sure of her future role with the team, Nethken said the team intends to continue to compete in future events.
“This is intended to be an annual thing, and it is a great learning experience for students,” Nethken said.
She said the biggest challenges the team will face are funding and time constraints, as the competition will be late this summer. The team’s proposed half-mile test track will need to start construction in May, Nethken said.
Photos provided by AZLoop
Kelsie Crawford, a junior physics and astrophysics student, leads AZLoop’s business team, which is responsible for procuring its funding.
She said the team will need $750,000 to $1 million to make the project happen. So far, they have just under five percent of the funds they need, Crawford said.
“We want to be number one in innovation, so why are we not making this project happen?” Crawford said.
Still, she said she has high hopes for procuring that money, looking for sponsorships with many different companies.
“Right now we’re looking at a sponsorship with Intel,” Crawford said.
On April 21, the team is hosting a Gala to woo sponsors, although Crawford said students are welcome to attend.
“It’s going to happen,” Crawford said. “There’s no ifs ands or buts, it’s going to happen. It’s just going to take a lot of work to make it happen.”
She said if the team is able to build their test track, it would be one of the 10 largest vacuum tubes in the world.
Virginia Tech University would be the only other finalist to have a test track, Crawford said.
Crawford said she was relieved to have made it to the final round.
“Knowing all the hours and all-nighters had finally paid off was just a fabulous feeling,” Crawford said.
Samantha Janko, a doctoral student studying systems engineering, runs AZLoop’s controls team, which is responsible for the coding, electronic components and power for the Hyperloop.
“Getting the message from Dr. Crow was a big deal, too,” Janko said.
She said the team should be prototyping their Hyperloop by next month.
“Last year we were a pretty small group with big dreams, and this time we’ve gotten together all the resources we needed to really move forward and progress,” Janko said.
She said the experience has been rewarding.
“It’s not easy, but if you get a bunch of really smart and motivated people together — and multidisciplinary people — together all in one place, it’s a really wonderful thing,” Janko said.