W. MI native leading Hyperloop pod research team

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Imagine being able to move at nearly the speed of sound.

That day is likely a long way away, but a West Michigan native and University of Michigan student is leading a team at the school competing to build the pod to do it.

“I’m working on a revolutionary type of transportation for an industry that hasn’t seen any kind of innovation since the introduction of the aircraft,” said Sam Elwell.

The pod would be for the Hyperloop, a mode of transportation proposed by Tesla founder Elon Musk, as a concept would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a 350-mile trip, in about 35 minutes.

Elwell is a graduate of Forest Hills Northern, he is in his junior year at Michigan studying aerospace engineering and physics. He is also leading a team of 30 to 40 other college students that are working on a pod for the Hyperloop.

“It’s kind of like a bullet train that a lot of people are familiar with, except it goes through an evacuated chamber so it goes through a tube that’s at partial vacuum which simulates the conditions you experience at cruising altitude in an aircraft,” Elwell said.

It’s similar to a tube seen at a bank, except bigger and a much faster.

“The goal is for it to be able to go 700 miles per hour, which is just below the speed of sound,” said Elwell.

Right now, the team is deep in the design phase preparing the final design packet, which they will send to SpaceX with hopes to get approval to start building their pod. If approved, they would start building in January and test it in the tube in California sometime this summer.

“It’s one of the coolest things to be part of something that nobody has ever done before. Even NASA who has seemed to research on about everything hadn’t even looked into what this would take until the announcement of this concept and competition by Elon Musk and SpaceX,” Elwell said.

The project isn’t cheap; the team is seeking corporate sponsors and have set up a GoFundMe account to help offset the costs.

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