Annual Review 2016/17

Racing to develop the next mode of transport

How team spirit is driving students towards turning a visionary travel concept into a reality.

The University of Edinburgh student team with their hyperloop pod
The University of Edinburgh student team with their hyperloop pod

A student team’s award-winning efforts to bring about the creation of a revolutionary mode of transport are providing them with a remarkable Edinburgh experience.

 

Engineering a remarkable student experience

Over the past two years members of a student team, called HYPED, have spent countless hours pursuing a global challenge: to help design and build a futuristic travel system known as the Hyperloop. 

The brainchild of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, the Hyperloop is a mode of transport intended to take passengers over land in pods travelling at around 750mph in a near-vacuum tube. These pods are accelerated by linear induction motors and pass between stations using passive magnetic levitation. A pod could carry up to 20 passengers, and building a route linking Edinburgh and London could allow journey times of just 45 minutes.

The Edinburgh team’s hard work and dedication was richly rewarded in 2017 as its achievements took members of HYPED halfway around the world and won them international recognition.

The team’s President, electrical and mechanical engineering undergraduate Adam Anyszewski, believes its success is partly down to its diversity and the international mix of students involved. 

“Team spirit is key,” says Adam. “There are a lot of really ambitious students at Edinburgh, and at HYPED we are working together to try to do something interesting for our careers and the well-being of the world.” 

Founded in 2015 by a handful of engineering students, HYPED has since grown into a well-structured society with more than 100 members from disciplines including engineering, business, art and law. 

Russian postgraduate Sophiya Volkova, who leads HYPED’s six-strong legal team, is currently pursuing an MSc International Business with Emerging Markets, following her undergraduate studies in law at Edinburgh. She was initially drawn to the University by its prestige and the study options available: “The University’s reputation was a big attraction – it’s valued around the world,” says Sophiya. “I also wanted to study law and combine it with Spanish, which is something very few universities in the UK offer. Since I’ve been at Edinburgh, HYPED has become a very significant part of my life, and a definite highlight of my university career.” 

Reaching the final

Last summer HYPED was the only group from the UK – and one of just four European teams – to reach the final of a contest to design and build a prototype Hyperloop pod. Out of 1,200 groups that submitted initial designs to the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, HYPED was one of only 24 teams invited to compete in the final in California.

Macauley Versey, who is currently studying electrical and mechanical engineering at Edinburgh, is an integral part of HYPED’s technical team and rightly proud of its achievements: “The pod was built in around three months by a handful of HYPED members,” he reports. “The fact we were able to build the pod in such a short time-span and take it to California to compete is remarkable.”

Despite putting in a strong performance in California, the team didn’t win, but Adam believes HYPED can achieve this in future: “We firmly believe it’s within our abilities to finish in one of the highest positions at the next SpaceX competition,” he says. “Taking part was a huge logistical challenge – we moved 20 people and half a tonne of gear to the other side of the Atlantic – so this year we’ll begin planning and building much earlier.”

Team spirit is key. There are a lot of really ambitious students at Edinburgh, and at HYPED we are working together to try to do something interesting for our careers and the well-being of the world.

Mr Adam Anyszewski

Technical and business expertise

Since its inception, HYPED has drawn on the expertise, advice and experience of Professors Gordon Masterton and Win Rampen of the University’s School of Engineering, who made an invaluable contribution to their efforts. 

“I’ve met with the team weekly over the past year to discuss technical issues,” comments Professor Rampen. “It has been my privilege to work with this group of self-organised and highly motivated, visionary students.”

Alongside their technical expertise in Hyperloop pod design, HYPED’s business awareness was also demonstrated last summer when they became the only student team to win a top prize in a related commercial competition. 

More than 2,600 teams registered for the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, which tasked teams with developing detailed plans for the most feasible routes to implement one of the world’s first Hyperloop systems. HYPED’s proposed route from Edinburgh to London was chosen as one of just 10 winners by an expert panel.

“Our ability to tackle both the technical and commercial challenges presented by the Hyperloop arguably makes HYPED the most accomplished student team working on the technology,” says Adam. 

HYPED were the only team to compete in both the SpaceX pod competition and also win Hyperloop One’s business challenge.

Their involvement in Hyperloop One was led by Carolina Toczycka, the team’s Head of Commercial, who is pursuing a PhD in data-driven innovation. Caroline highlights the key role played by the University in helping to create impactful societies: “The University enables students here to create and build amazing experiences for themselves through its support for societies like HYPED,” she says. “I hope that we can inspire other people and show them that there is so much you can achieve as a society at Edinburgh.”

As well as aiming for more success in the next SpaceX pod competition, the team is looking to further develop commercial ties with Hyperloop One and other companies. It is also working on an outreach programme aimed at encouraging more young people, particularly females, into STEM subjects. After a momentous year, the determination and drive of the students of HYPED is sure to propel them on to yet greater success.

 

Photo © Brian Chong