A team of university students wowed Elon Musk with their Hyperloop pod designs – here’s how they did it

From big dreams to build a city on Mars to shooting through high speed transportation pods, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is well-known for his outlandish ideas.

But it looks like his concept of the Hyperloop – ultra high speed transportation pods that shoot through vacuum tubes – which he first introduced in 2013, is on its way to becoming a reality.

We are talking about pods levitating insider low-pressure tubes, and travelling at speeds close to the speed of sound, in excess of 1,000kmh.


And we have Musk’s dissatisfaction with the traffic in Los Angeles to thank for it.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Post

But even for the founder of American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company SpaceX, building the Hyperloop is no easy task.

So naturally, he turned to some of the youngest and brightest minds for help.

Since 2015, SpaceX has organised two competitions, called the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, for university students to contribute innovative approaches to the development of the technology.

WARR Hyperloop

The competitions take place in Los Angeles near the SpaceX headquarters, and attract students from across the globe.

Both competitions were won by a team called WARR Hyperloop from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Business Insider spoke to WARR Hyperloop founder Ms Mariana Avezum, 27, to find out how her team did it.

The team was in Singapore this week to share their experiences with students at TUM Asia, Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Institute of Technology,

Ms Mariana Avezum, the founder of WARR Hyperloop
WARR Hyperloop

Ms Avezum was a computer science masters student at TUM in 2015 when she first started up the WARR Hyperloop team, which comprised 37 undergraduate as well as graduate students from the university.

And while she admitted that she started the team because it made a “good master’s thesis project”, the team’s success definitely spoke volumes.

“Amazing team work really leads to amazing results in a short period of time”, shared Ms Avezum.

She played an integral role as the team leader during the first competition, but took a step back and acted as an advisor at its second rendition.

The team make up for the first and second competition were very different- with only about five members participating in both.

When asked about the success of the team during the first competition, she attributed it to their use of a compressor and the modularity of the pod’s design.

Warr Hyperloop protoype

A photo of the team’s pod during the first edition of the competition
WARR Hyperloop

“We were the only team that had a compressor in the front. And this helps to reduce drag, and keeps (the pod’s) speed,” she said. 

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Hours before the competition, the team found out that they “weren’t going to hit the speed” needed to get their pod to levitate, because the the tunnel’s pusher wasn’t as strong as promised.

But through the modularity of the team’s design, which made use of aluminium frames, they were able to remove enough parts to get the pod to hit its desired speed.

They became the only team to get a pod to the end of the tunnel, which of course, greatly contributed to them winning the competition.

For the second competition, WARR Hyperloop focused solely on speed.

To do this, the team built a very light pod made of carbon fibre supplemented with aluminium inserts, while keeping a 50kW strong motor.

The team’s pod design for the second edition of the competition
WARR Hyperloop

As a comparison, the new pod weighed 80kg while the first model weighed 600kg, and was able to travel at 324kmh (compared to the previous 94kmh) – surpassing the speed of all other teams and earning them the top accolade.

Their victory also earned them the praise of Musk who was amazed at what a student initiative managed to achieve.

Hyperloop WARR pod run to 201 mph (324 km/h) in 0.8 mile near vacuum tube

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

The next SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition will be held in 2018, and we can only imagine what the teams will have in store.