HyperLynx does it on their own
New club embraces being an underdog
The future is here, the future is now, and the future is “HyperLynx.”
“We were originally a senior mechanical design project two years ago,” Wencil Stanek, the team leader, said. “Now, we’re just a club that’s open to CU Denver students, CCD, MSU, and anyone on campus who wants to help out.”
The main function of the HyperLynx club is to build a pod to compete in the HyperLoop competition, a program put on by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. This is meant to promote the use and research of “hyper pods” to move people and cargo from one location to another at incredibly fast speeds through airtight chambers—sort of like the futuristic film Minority Report.
The competition has only been around for a year, with its first teams competing in January and August of 2017. The HyperLynx group attended the inaugural competition, and though they did not win, they plan to return next summer.
“Think of [Hyperloop] as a drag race with some of the fastest vehicles you’ve ever seen,” said Stanek. “While also coming to a stop,” added Bejan Akhavan, the co-electrical lead on the project.
The competition is a melting pot for young minds to collaborate, which can lead to some interesting inventions.
“The vehicle that we’re building has wheels,” Stanek said. “Some of the other vehicles have magnetic levitation systems; some use air-bearing systems, where they use compressed air to levitate.”
Other teams even use rockets to power their vehicle, which Aaron Zapiler, the project’s mechanical lead, finds astounding.
“They must have really good advisors, because I wouldn’t know where to start,” Zapiler said.
That is where things get more interesting for the HyperLynx. As a new club on campus, there is no hierarchy to the way the club works. Everyone has an equal role, and though the group asks for advice from professors, there is no specific university faculty members that leads the group.
“A lot of these other teams, they have a permanent, full-time faculty member running the club,” Andrew Gras, the electrical lead of the project, said. “That’s one of the things we don’t have. This is a student-founded, student-run organization.”
But even more than not having a set system of structure, the club is also in over their heads concerning a project they haven’t been taught the skills to complete. Gras articulated the issue in saying, “I am just now a second semester junior, and am just now taking a class about motors and how to transform electricity into mechanical power. Part of the problem with recruiting freshmen and sophomores is that, on the technical side, they haven’t taken the classes yet to do the math—to do the engineering—that we need to actually build the pod. That said, we absolutely want younger members on the team because it’s a chance to learn those things outside of class.”
Each of the four members interviewed admitted that the lack of preparation doesn’t stem from the university structure itself, but rather the team’s and project’s ambitious nature.
“My advisor, when I was telling him about this project,” Zapiler said. “He literally said to me that if I were to rebuild one sensor from the system that we’re doing and wrote a data collection algorithm for that, that it would be an adequate senior thesis project. We have 24 sensors that we’re specifically putting on it, plus probably another dozen data collection points coming from various pieces that we’re using. I’m essentially doing 36 senior projects, and that’s just the sensor system.”