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Mizzou engineers figure feasibility of hyperloop

One student writes the group's ideas on a whiteboard while other students ponder.

Following the presentation, student teams were broken off and sent to brainstorm for a two-minute pitch. They were asked to focus on how a Columbia Hyperloop portal could best serve students, the city of Columbia and surrounding areas, and how to utilize off-peak pods to generate revenue. Photo by Brandan Haskell.

Virgin Hyperloop One and Black & Veatch partnered with MU’s College of Engineering on September 6 for an event where students brainstormed with engineers on the Virgin Hyperloop One project.

Attendees assembled in the Student Center’s Leadership Lounge Thursday evening for the opportunity to learn more about Virgin’s plans for a Missouri Hyperloop, which would stretch between St. Louis and Kansas City. Following the presentation, students were invited to participate in a unique feasibility study.

Throughout the talk, engineers from Virgin Hyperloop One and Black & Veatch discussed the development process for the commercial Hyperloop route, which will include a Columbia portal. With a vision for “fast, effortless journeys that expand possibilities,” the unique mode of transportation will allow passengers the capability to travel at nearly 670 mph, carrying them from one city to the next in only 35 minutes.

The 100-percent electric Hyperloop would also reduce congestion and emissions, as well as provide efficient land use with minimal noise. Since first starting out in 2014, working out of a garage, Hyperloop One has seen a quick expansion. In 2016, they broke ground, and by December 2017, Phase 3 of testing was complete. Now, Hyperloop One is production ready and eager to make Missouri a home for the project.

“It’s the gateway between the east and west. What a perfect way to start the expansion of the United States Hyperloop network than right here in Missouri,” Anthony Bauer, senior tunnel engineer for Hyperloop One, said. “It will be the same expansion as what happened with the railroads back in the 1800s. Missouri itself has a track record of leadership in transportation.”

Both Virgin Hyperloop One and Black & Veatch were looking to do more than raise awareness surrounding the project; they arrived on campus to engage students and poll input.

“So, why Mizzou? The engineering town here is obvious,” Bauer continued. “You guys have a really, really talented student body, and we come to Columbia because we want to build a station here. We want to connect the Hyperloop network to Columbia, and we want to get your input on how best we do that. How do we build portals that best connect with the campus, the community and how will it best affect your lives?”

For the student participants, the presentation and study not only allowed them the opportunity to develop their own proposals, but also learn more about Virgin Hyperloop One’s groundbreaking project.

“I felt that the Hyperloop Event was a great opportunity to gather a greater understanding of why exactly Missouri is the best place to begin the creation of the Hyperloop,” Civil Engineering major Anthony Perez said. “With its central location in the United States, expansion could be easily completed in every direction. This could affect people’s daily lives through work, school and recreation. Hyperloop is acclaimed to be the next big mode of transportation, and the event just provided greater excitement for that!”

Following the presentation, student teams were broken off and sent to brainstorm for a two-minute pitch. They were asked to focus on how a Columbia Hyperloop portal could best serve students, the city of Columbia and surrounding areas, and how to utilize off-peak pods to generate revenue.

“We’re going to do a hyper Hackathon, so the speed theme is going to play throughout this evening,” Black & Veatch’s growth accelerator and innovation leader, Hyleme George said. “You’re going to have one hour to work on [the] opportunity statements.

Students were given the time to develop an idea for the proposal and then two minutes to present to Hyperloop One, who could ultimately choose in one of the pitches to move forward.

“Sell these guys on why they should phone up Uncle Richard and have him invest in your idea,” George joked. “So, why should that idea be the one selected all of the dozen pitched tonight?”

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