Course Spotlight: ECE 188 & ECE 189

Senior Project: Hyperloop


Instructors – Dr. Ilan Ben-Yaacov (ECE) & Dr. John Johnson (CE)


Photo of ECE Hyperloop project students

Article from the Fall 2016 ECE Current newsletter

Visit the official page for UCSB Hyperloop

Imagine being able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 30 minutes!That was the vision laid out in 2013 by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk when he releaseda proposal for Hyperloop, the fifth major mode of transportation. The Hyperlooptransportation system consists of a partially evacuated tube connecting major destinations that are 300-600 miles apart. Levitating pods carrying travelers would be shot through the tube, reaching speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour. Riders would then be able to travel between major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco in extremely short times and at a high level of comfort, avoiding the traffic and air delays that we’ve become so accustomed to.

In the summer of 2015, SpaceX announced a Hyperloop Pod Car competition, intended to accelerate development of the Hyperloop system. SpaceX is building a 1-mile test tube at their facilities in Hawthorne, California, and competing engineering teams will build pods and race them through the tube in Winter and Summer 2017.

UCSB Hyperloop is out to make this dream a reality. The interdisciplinary team of over 20 students are working with a group of professors and industry professionals and are being further guided and mentored by two long-time SpaceX engineers. After presenting their pod design at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend in January 2016 at Texas A&M University, they were one of 30 teams (from over 1,200 initial entries) that were selected by SpaceX to compete in the finals of their competition. The team has been designing and building their pod since September of 2015. As of June 2016, they have completed construction of all subsystems and are integrating them into a final build so that they can begin levitation testing, as well as programming and testing of the pod’s control systems.

The completed pod is expected to weigh about 500 pounds, will have a fiberglass outer shell, and a support system built from steel and aluminum. A set of six magnetic levitation engines powered by lithium polymer batteries and rotating at over 2000 RPM will allow the pod to levitate 6mm above the aluminum base of the tube as the pod travels through the tube at speeds over 200 miles per hour. A magnetic braking array will slow the pod from high speeds to about 60 miles per hour, after which mechanical brakes will engage to bring the pod to a complete stop. The team’s pod further includes an array of sensors, including 3-axis accelerometers, gyroscopes, and short- and long-range position sensors, in order to measure and record the levitation height, position, and many other parameters as the pod travels through the tube. The pod’s entire control system and telemetry unit is controlled by a 4-layer circuit board powered by a pair of NXP 4088 microprocessors, which the team designed and fabricated.

Photo of Yuan Xie with grad students

The UCSB Hyperloop Team is also concurrently working with the Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation (MOXI Museum), which will soon open in Santa Barbara to create an exhibit about the Hyperloop transportation system and the pod that they are building.

Work on this project has been made possible by generous support from Jonathan and Christina Siegel, Steve and Anita Holmgren and the following industry Partners: Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Tenon Intersystems, Ingersoll Rand, Tattu, UCSB Edison-McNair Scholars Program, California Chamber of Commerce and UCSB Associated Students.