About 20 UF students are finalists in a SpaceX competition.

The students will compete against 22 other universities in Hawthorne, California, this summer as they try to create a new method of transportation in the final round of the “Hyperloop Pod” competition. 

The students advanced to the final round, hosted by Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Motors, last weekend.

The team’s submission, Gatorloop, will be 15 feet long and 3 feet wide. It could weigh as much as a motorcycle and go between 225 and 250 miles per hour on the 1-mile track.  

The Hyperloop is a theoretical high-speed transportation system that carries people and cargo, potentially surpassing speeds of 750 mph, according to SpaceX’s website.  

In the competition, participants will race entries at a third of that speed to see which team reaches the finish line first.

Terra Gurley, 22, the team leader for safety and reliability, said she wants to see the Hyperloop become commonplace.

“Technology and ideas like this are the future, and the more the word is spread, the faster this concept will become a reality,” the UF mechanical engineering senior wrote in an email.

While at the weekend competition at Texas A&M University, Musk surprised the crowd by coming out and speaking, she said.

“Everyone ran toward the stage like music fans would run toward a rock star, and it was an amazing inspiration to hear him speak in person,” she said.

Kris Koepke, the mechanical systems lead, said the original concept for Hyperloop was to have transportation capsules, or pods, magnetically levitate or have air bearings lift up the pod.

“Like an air hockey table,” the UF mechanical engineering senior said of air bearings. “A compressor takes in the air to lift the pod up.”  

Originally, teams were told the pod needed to levitate, the 36-year-old said. A few weeks ago, they changed their minds, and Gatorloop added wheels.

“A compressor has not been built for this capacity and would take nearly two to three years to design a compressor,” he said. “So we went with wheels.” 

They added wheels because they wanted the pod to be more aerodynamic and they could win the competition, Koepke said.

Before registering in September for the competition, the Gatorloop team was already planning, Erica Harp, the team’s treasurer, said.

The team is trying to raise about $20,000 to create the pod, the UF mechanical engineering junior said.

“We have been working on this project non-stop since the middle of summer semester,” the 20-year-old said. “Luckily I was here this summer and had the chance to see our design be built from scratch!”

The Gatorloop team is raising money for the project on GoFundMe at gofundme.com/gatorloop.

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