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UF Team's 'Gatorloop' Advances In International Transportation Competition

The prototype of a half scale hyperloop used in the competition." Photo courtesy of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.
The prototype of a half scale hyperloop used in the competition." Photo courtesy of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

After competing against more than 120 teams from around the world, students in the University of Florida's Gatorloop team have made it to the final round against 29 other teams as part of a design competition.

UF's Gatorloop team traveled to Texas to put their "Hyperloop" to the test. It took the team 15 hours to get from Florida to Texas by van, but with the Hyperloop, it would take only 90 minutes, said Dean Molinaro, the team's mechanics lead.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation design concept that was introduced by engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. The idea of the Hyperloop was first introduced in 2013, when Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, challenged the world to develop the concept from his open-source designs.

The team's systems integration engineer, Matison Whillans, is responsible for the communication between the team's subgroups, to ensure all components can fit together reliably.

"The Hyperloop consists of a pod carrying around 30 people operating in a low pressure steel tube," Whillans said. "The low pressure allows the pod to travel at extremely high speed with little drag."

During the first round of the competition, held in mid-January, teams had to present plans for moving forward – specifically designs for the pods that will carry passengers and cargo.

Team captain of Gatorloop, Taylor Waber, said the Hyperloop will be the next mode of transportation.

"It will allow people to travel great distances in a short amount of time. Elon proposed a route to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles," Waber said. "Hyperloop would make this trip roughly 30 minutes."

Now that Gatorloop is competing in the final round, the team has taken a step back to analyze what set them apart and what they can do to improve the Hyperloop.

"Gatorloop is currently working on finalizing our designs and supporting analysis for SpaceX's safety verification," Whillans said. "We are also working on gaining sponsorship to ensure we have the funds to build, when the time comes."

Molinaro, who's in charge of lateral suspension in the pod, said by the end of the design stage, the hyperloop will be tested to show judges in the competition that there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Gatorloop is one of only three university teams who integrated wheels into their design. Molinaro said that set them apart from other teams. 

"One of the major details to our component was our simplicity," Molinaro said.

He added Gatorloop made the pod to be unique and affordable to create.

"The idea of the Hyperloop is where a passenger would ride in a pod and be shot down near a vacuum-like tube," Molinaro said. "Our prototype will have a dummy in the pod, travel 200 mph and be tested in a one mile test track."

The Hyperloop will have a total cost of $19,000, Molinaro said.

Gatorloop will continue on as an organization at the University of Florida to further improve the pod design for future Hyperloop competitions, Whillans said.

"As for the students working on it now, with this valuable experience, we will hopefully move onto careers developing the future of transportation," she said.

The Gatorloop team is currently working about 25 hours a week to continue developing a prototype, Molinaro said.

"Whether we win or lose, we get to say we were the ones who first began creating Hyperloop," Waber said. "In reality, we all win, knowing that this is going to change history and drive huge changes to mass transportation."

Paola is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news