The hyperloop pod design contest took place in Texas A&M University's Hall of Champions. (credit: Eric Berger)

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—For years, the Hyperloop was a much buzzed-about myth. Finally, in 2013, Elon Musk provided a bit of substance by outlining the proposal in a research paper. People riding inside a tube, he said, could go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes at speeds exceeding 700mph. But Musk had rockets and electric cars and batteries to build, and he expressed a hope that others would step forward to help carry the idea forward as an open source project.

Now some help has arrived. While SpaceX is building a test track near its southern California headquarters, more than 100 teams of student engineers have spent the fall and winter months designing “pods” to run inside the Hyperloop. And perhaps more importantly still, this weekend US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said that the idea merits consideration for a public-private partnership to develop it further.

On Friday and Saturday, the student teams gathered in central Texas to show off their homegrown designs, taking the first step toward building pods and making the future Elon Musk a reality. In these teens and young twenty-somethings, Musk has found not only some of the world’s brightest minds but also believers. Musk had inspired them, and in the students he had found the youthful energy to push forward a brash idea like the Hyperloop.

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