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UC Again A Finalist In An Elon Musk Competition, And This Time It's 'Boring'

Courtesy The Boring Company
Many Hyperloop concepts involve putting tubes underground. This involves a fast and economical tunnel boring machine.

A team of University of Cincinnati engineering students is helping Elon Musk's Hyperloop idea become reality. But the project has temporarily shifted focus from vehicle design to creation of a tunnel boring machine. This is necessary to put the Hyperloop underground.

Current tunneling technology is slow and expensive, so The Boring Company is sponsoring a competition to design a machine to do it quickly. UC is one of 12 finalists in the Not-A-Boring Competition. Students are finalizing their design and raising money to buy and manufacture parts. They will likely compete this summer in California, pending University approval.

The Big Picture

On November 8, 2020, Virgin Hyperloop became the first company to test this form of travel with people. Even though it's designed to reach speeds of 750 mph, on this day the test was limited to 48 mph. Here's what happened last fall in California on Virgin's test track:

Think of the possibilities, like going from Cincinnati to Chicago in 22 minutes. It's normally a five-hour trip that UC Hyperloop President Jake Gerbracht doesn't like making. But the concept is closer than you might think. Northern Ohio seems to be all in.

"Cleveland has partnered with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to do an environmental impact study of putting a Hyperloop between Cleveland and Chicago. That's still in the design review process," Gerbracht says.

Musk is counting on smart students to design the electric vehicle and perfect its travel. As early as 2016, UC built a prototype and became the first team to magnetically levitate it, an important step.

Pipe Dreams

UC was consistently in the finals for vehicle design, and even after COVID-19 paused the competition, is still designing a tunnel boring machine.

Faculty Advisor Dr. Laura Pinelo is impressed. "I'd just like to say, looking at the complexity of the machine they built, the fact that they did this during COVID, all remotely, is kind of crazy to me."

Credit Hyperloop UC
Pre-COVID, UC engineering students were working to design a Hyperloop vehicle. Now they are working remotely to design a tunnel boring machine.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.