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By Jamie Taylor on

Hyperloop: From Poddy McPodface to travel revolution?

Team Hyped's journey from the UK's first Hyperloop pod prototype to the mk3 version named after a certain locomotive.

One of the great things about sharing contemporary science stories is that even after the exhibition closes, they’re still being written. One such case in point is team Hyped who featured in our exhibition Testing. While their first prototype Poddy McPodface was inspiring and amazing visitors in our gallery, the team were busy building their third prototype. You might be surprised to hear that they named it after a very famous locomotive from our own collection.

Hyperloop might just be the future of rail travel. It works on the idea of a pod that levitates above a rail in a tube with almost all the air removed from it. As there is hardly any resistance from the air or the rail, drag is reduced to the point that the pod can potentially travel at speeds of up to 700mph. It’s not a new a new idea (indeed people have been trying to make it work for over 100 years) but it’s only with today’s technology and engineers like the students from team Hyped that it is now becoming a possibility. If it works, it could revolutionise how we travel.

Macauley Versey, Team President, explains: “Most people would kill for a 20-minute commute. But instead of a 20-minute commute taking you 10 miles down the road, with Hyperloop it could take you the length of the country. The potential for bringing people together could be phenomenal.”

Macauley and his team have built two Pod prototypes (including the UK’s first such vehicle, Poddy McPodface). In doing so they’ve grown from a Facebook group of five friends to a student society of over 200 members. Along the way they’ve flown to California to compete in two SpaceX Hyperloop Challenges and attracted the attention of some very famous people including Prince William and Mr Hyperloop (and Tesla) himself, Elon Musk.

Elon Musk admires Team Hyped's creation
Elon Musk admires the inner workings of Team Hyped’s creation

It’s not been easy for the team to get this far. As well as the team’s success, they’ve had to contend with some serious setbacks. In both competitions, the pod’s on-board control systems have experienced problems that meant they were unable to progress any further. As only the top three teams make it in to SpaceX’s test track, the team are yet to test out their pod for real.

Like all great pioneers, they’ve not let it stop them. Within months of returning from California they were already planning their second prototype, Poddy 2. With a new carbon-fibre shell that reduces the pod’s weight, a revolutionary spinning magnetic propulsion system and space to carry a full-sized passenger, the team have used their experience from the first competition to make something even better.

With their latest prototype The Flying Podsman (see what they did there?), they’re going even further. They’ve a created revolutionary new type of magnetic propulsion system which very well could be the first of its kind. It’s so secret that I can’t even tell you about it yet. They’ve also created a new chassis that is inspired by natural forms as well as overhauling the emergency brakes and the computer systems. All these improvements mean that the team have a real shot of beating last year’s finalists for a chance to prove themselves on the SpaceX test track.

Flying Scotsman and Poddy McPodface
Flying Scotsman is an icon of historic transport—is the Hyperloop pod the future?

At the National Railway Museum, it’s our job to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. When I see the next generation already out there making change happening, it really inspires me to continue creating exhibitions like Testing. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the team and I one day hope to see their logo on the side of my pod as I shoot to work.

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