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Hyperloop concept
A cutaway illustrates the concept for transporting people in a Hyperloop. (Credit: Patrick Grimmel via SpaceX)

More than 120 student engineering teams, including a group from the University of Washington, have been chosen for a Hyperloop pod design competition backed by billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Motors.

Experts at SpaceX selected the teams from hundreds of entries to take part in a Design Weekend, scheduled for Jan. 29-30 at Texas A&M University. More than 1,000 students representing over 100 universities and three high schools will present their concepts to panels of judges at the event, the contest’s organizers said today in a news release. Check out the full list of registered teams.

The judges, representing SpaceX and Tesla as well as universities around the country, will decide which teams get a chance to build and test their design prototypes in the next round of the competition. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will discuss the future of transportation with the teams at a private event. The design submissions will be put on public display on Jan 30 at Texas A&M’s Hall of Champions in advance of the judges’ decision.

The competition’s final round will take place next summer at a test track that’s being built by SpaceX next to its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Musk released his Hyperloop concept for high-speed intercity transit back in 2013. The concept calls for building networks of pneumatic tubes through which pods would travel at just under the speed of sound. Such a system would cost billions of dollars to build, but the pods could carry passengers and packages between San Francisco and Los Angeles in a half-hour.

Musk came up with the plan out of frustration with the estimated $68 billion price tag for a high-speed rail system connecting the Bay Area and Southern California. He says he has no immediate plans to commercialize the concept himself, but other entrepreneurs are trying to make the idea a reality.

One such venture, Hyperloop Technologies, says it’s gearing up to build a 1-kilometer-long (half-mile-long) test track on a 50-acre site in North Las Vegas. The company says the scaled-down test track represents an initial step in its campaign. It plans to construct a 3-kilometer-long, full-scale, full-speed Hyperloop prototype by 2017 and deliver a commercially viable transit system by 2020.

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