College students building hyperloop design in Houston

By Owen Conflenti - Anchor, Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - More and more people are moving to Texas and commute times are getting worse and worse.

In Houston, we spend nearly an hour in our cars every day. So what does the future of transportation look like?

Perhaps it'll be a hyperloop.

In the 1960s the Jetsons zipped around town in a vacuumed tube.

Fifty years later, Houston-area college students are competing to build the real thing.

At Rice University, a team of 10 college students is working on its own design.

Gentry Clark, a senior, is a founding member of the Rice University Hyperloop team. The team also has a Facebook page, Twitter profile and Instagram account.

"I do this on the weekends for fun," said Clark. He added, "Hyperloop technology is a really exciting new form of transportation ... basically a high-speed train that travels inside a tube in which you've sucked most or all of the air out of the tube, to decrease the air resistance."

The ends of the loop are sealed off.

The pod is levitated off the ground and sent racing down the track.

With a 3D printer the Rice team has already created two small-scale mock-ups.

They'll use a nitrogen tank for the propulsion system.

The theory is that one day some hyperloop pods could run as fast as Mach 1 (767.269 mph).

From Austin to Houston, instead of taking several hours, it would take about 15 minutes.

The SpaceX hyperloop competition is one of a few initiatives that are out there trying to push the technology forward.

For three years in a row, SpaceX has hosted the international competition for college students.

The finalists get a chance to run their full-size designs down SpaceX’s hyperloop track in Hawthorne, California.

Rice's hyperloop team has entered the competition in the past, but until this year they'd never made it out of the first round.

This year, though, they've made it into the semifinals, and any day now, they'll find out if they've punched their ticket to Hawthorne.

"I'm just going to be shaking down to my boots about whether or not it's going to work," said Clark.

The SpaceX track is about 1 mile long.

It can take a pod roughly 10 seconds to make the trip.

Jeremiah Chikota is a junior on the hyperloop team: "It's over like that, it's very, very quick."

Each part of this team is mission critical.

"The smallest error happens at that speed. You can go spinning off the track, you can crash at hundreds of miles an hour," said Clark.

The previous competition winners were students from Munich, Germany.

That team reached speeds of more than 290 mph.

The Rice team is hopeful their design will go even faster.

"Our design could be the first and the best in the world to go over 300 mph," said Chikota.

"If it works, it'll be the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life," said Clark.

Hyperloop may be in the near future for Texas.

In northern Texas, a regional council is looking to build a route connecting Dallas and Fort Worth.

And a second project would connect Fort Worth to Laredo, including stops in Waco, Austin and San Antonio.

Support he Rice University hyperloop team by clicking here.

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