It’s rare for a student organization to achieve international success. It’s even rarer for such an organization to be primarily composed of undergraduates. However, on our very own campus at UW-Madison, one group has attained that rarer than rare status—the UW BadgerLoop.
Fueled by their passion for innovation, BadgerLoop was founded in response to a challenge, the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. Based on the concept proposed by the inventor Elon Musk, SpaceX announced “an open competition, geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build the best Hyperloop pod” (Hyperloop, SpaceX). Initially introduced in Elon Musk’s paper, Hyperloop Alpha, in 2013, the Hyperloop concept consists of a high-speed pod inside a low-pressure environment that is capable of traveling at speeds up to 760 mph. Representative of future cutting-edge transportation, the Hyperloop theoretically overcomes the limitations found in current conventional travel (e.g. automobiles, trains, planes).
In the summer of 2015, two seniors at UW-Madison, Brett Sjostrom and Tieler Callazo, eventual co-presidents of BadgerLoop, assembled a founding team of tenacious undergraduates dedicated to tackling Musk’s challenge. By the time SpaceX released the competition guidelines in August, BadgerLoop was officially ready to begin designing their pod. Working endlessly, the team put in hours, then days, then weeks into the creation of their pod. Months passed, and by January, BadgerLoop was ready to showcase their design at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design Weekend in Texas. Facing against teams from MIT, Stanford, Delft, among others that were mainly composed of graduate students, BadgerLoop proudly returned to Madison as third place winners, securing them a final spot on SpaceX’s Hyperloop test track this summer in California.
Though it was (initially) primarily composed of mechanical engineers, BadgerLoop now has almost 100 members from various fields and 12 faculty advisors. With members from computer engineering, electrical engineering, physics, business and more, BadgerLoop not only broadened their diversity, but also their scope of vison. As the structure of the organization is enhanced, the group is able to dedicate various factions to multiple areas of pod design and implementation.
On top of its success, BadgerLoop also offers a rich source of hands-on experience for its student members. Many student organizations promise leadership and administrative guidance, however, few can also act as a curricular medium. BadgerLoop team member, Cole Pierce, admitted, “Honestly, it’s probably one of the best industry-learning experiences. I realized that you’re gonna learn a lot of stuff in classes, but as far as getting your hands dirty…I’ve learned more in the club than everything combined.”
Besides providing an enriched individual experience, BadgerLoop works on highlighting the importance of teamwork, a value that’s grossly underrated in the engineering industry, as stated by Sjostrom himself. This is only strengthened by BadgerLoop’s diversity in background and experience. Although disagreement is inevitable in any true collaboration, Sjostrom emphasizes that “…clashing is what leads to such a beautiful design.” Like a match that can’t produce a flame without friction, creativity can’t be produced without discord.
In addition to embracing diversity and teamwork, BadgerLoop serves as a source of inspiration for the students. Despite the fact that not all members have extensive engineering knowledge, they all have one thing in common—the desire to make a difference. The empowering feeling of accomplishment and their absolute dedication to their passion is what drives the members of BadgerLoop in their mission.
It is the attitude and mindset members like this, along with its achievements that make BadgerLoop so desirable to sponsors. The organization boasts an impressive list of backers, including Cirrus Aircraft, UTC Aerospace Systems, and Saietta. Sjostrom noted, “These companies are what make it possible to build this thing
By Luke Valmadrid and Meng Lou
[the Hyperloop pod]. They see our passion for this project and our drive for innovation.”
BadgerLoop attributes their success as an organization to its group personality. Sjostrom insists, “We’re not afraid to be different from everyone else. In fact, we want to be different.” Members of the group may be young, but they carry themselves with a drive and confidence that make BadgerLoop function as a mature and seasoned team. As the members continue perfecting their Hyperloop pod, UW-Madison, and the future of transportation, roots for BadgerLoop and its bright minds and even brighter future.
Keep yourself updated with the BadgerLoop squad:
Support BadgerLoop: Contact, membership, and donation information can be found on https://badgerloop.com
Citations: Hyperloop. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop