Attention university students: SpaceX wants your help creating a passenger car for a high-speed Hyperloop concept.

What is a Hyperloop, exactly? It’s a transport system that works much like the vacuum tubes used to move documents from your car window to a teller at a bank drive-up. It’s an entirely closed system managed by computers, conceived with the hope that the Hyperloop could minimize transport accidents that are caused by human error.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has made it clear that SpaceX itself won’t be building the Hyperloop; their current prerogative is getting other companies and individuals involved with the project, which evolved out of Musk’s reaction to a new high-speed rail being built in California. Musk’s impression was that the state could create something better— and that’s where his 2013 concept outline for a Hyperloop system was born.

Musk wrote of the idea with high expectations: “Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment.”

The pod design contest is a way to generate interest and support new ideas. Entrants will have an opportunity to present their concepts before a panel of SpaceX and Tesla engineers, even though neither company has plans to make commercially available Hyperloop pods right now. SpaceX plans to construct a one-mile track nearby its Hawthorne, California headquarters to test pod prototypes. The company estimates that pods will have to be able to move at over 700mph for the concept to function. That’s a big jump from the 220mph maximum speed expected of the California high-speed rail.

The pod design contest deadline is Sept. 15, 2015, and the test track is expected to be complete by June of 2016. Find out more information on how to enter via the official webpage. Musk’s original design plan for the Hyperloop is also freely available online.

Activity: If the Hyperloop system seems futuristic, do some research on early methods of mechanical transport. What were some of the major differences between trains in 1915 versus 2015?

Jobs: Transport Engineer, Inventor

Source: CNN

Photo Credit: Creative Commons