Company offered engineering input on critical braking subsystems
By Peter Hoffman, Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Known fondly as Stanford’s “Pod People,” the team spent several months preparing a Hyperloop pod design. The Pod People were just one of more than 100 teams around the globe competing to build prototypes for testing later this year. Universities, colleges, even high schools and corporations formed teams and developed designs.
Don’t know what Hyperloop is? Imagine this, together with several others, you enter an attractive aircraft-like transportation capsule at a San Francisco Hyperloop station and take comfortable semi-reclining seats. You strap in securely. The door closes. 30 minutes later, the door opens… you unstrap and exit in Los Angeles. Nearly 400 miles in half an hour.
Look at concept photo of the Hyperloop capsule as conceived by The Pod People at Stanford. The pod resembles a jet aircraft with neither wings nor horizontal or vertical stabilizer. The core concept belongs to Elon Musk, founder and creator of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and other game-changing enterprises. The Hyperloop Pod Competition is his idea, too.
From top-left: Chris Guo, Nic Zhang, Kendall Fagan (team president), Kristine Chen, Moiead Charawi, Mason Black. Several other team members are not shown.
As shown, the pod rides inside of a large quasi-vacuum tube. Not visible is a substantial central aluminum rail which offers multi-purposes: safe guidance, vehicle levitation and braking surfaces. After all, reaching LA from San Francisco in a half hour implies a velocity in the neighborhood of 700 miles per hour. Good brakes are mandatory! We mean it, sincerely, or we are not getting in.
Braking is the subject that Hoffman helped the team understand. Many of Hoffman’s motion control projects over the years have included braking for large machines (just not at 700 mph). Company president Tom Hoffman said “Our consultation with The Pod People enabled us to provide engineering experience and insight on the material science and physics of braking. And we were able to recommend product vendors for further exploration.”
The Stanford team’s design made it into competition held in January at Texas A&M. About half the team members made the 4-day trip, presenting their design and sharing knowledge with hundreds of others. A grant from the Stanford Robotics Club made the trip possible.
I had a great learning experience from the Hyperloop competition. I was one of the braking sub-system team member and it was amazing to me how complicated and interesting the braking system was because it covered a wide range of topics in mechanical engineering. We were also very lucky getting in touch with R.M. Hoffman. They provided us with great technical consultancy as well as connections in the relative fields.
This fascinating design is a PDF file that you may download here. Owing to exceptionally stiff competition, The Pod People’s effort didn’t quite qualify for the construction of prototypes for testing, the next phase.
Team Captain Kendall Fagan reports that the Stanford design has much in common overall with the MIT design, which placed first. The Stanford Pod People are looking at collaborating with other university teams whose approaches were selected for the prototype phase. “We are considering if we want to go ahead and build the prototype we designed,” said Fagan, adding “The engineering is possible, but definitely hard to do. There are a lot of challenges to overcome.”
The Stanford Pod People
▸ HEAT & BRAKING TEAM
▸ KENDALL FAGAN—TEAM CAPTAIN
▸ YANG “CHRIS” GUO
▸ KATHERINE BUEHNER
▸ LEVITATION & LOW SPEED NAVIGATION TEAM
▸ KRISTINE CHEN—SUB-TEAM LEAD
▸ NITISH KULKARNI
▸ ENI ASEBIOMO
▸ STRUCTURAL DESIGN TEAM
▸ CELENA STAFF—SUB-TEAM LEAD
▸ MEGHANA RAO
▸ AERODYNAMICS TEAM
▸ RONGXIAO “NIC” ZHANG
▸ MARIO CHRIS
▸ STABILITY & NAVIGATION TEAM
▸ CHARLES HALE—SUB-TEAM LEAD
▸ MASON BLACK
▸ MOIEAD “MO” CHARAWI
▸ CONSULTING FACULTY
▸ DR. ILAN KROO—ADVISOR
▸ PROF. MARK CUTKOSKY
▸ PROF. JOHN EATON
▸ PROF. PAUL MITIGUY
▸ DR. LESTER SU