Two dozen teams of students from around the globe will compete in Hawthorne Sunday in hopes of providing a critical component for Elon Musk’s revolutionary form of high-speed travel known as Hyperloop.

The brainchild of SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk, the Hyperloop concept envisions people-carrying pods that are propelled through vacuum tubes, ultimately at speeds up to 700 mph. Such a system could potentially cut the commute time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to about 30 minutes.

Although Musk initially proposed the idea in 2013 and his companies performed some early engineering work, Musk described it as an “open-source” concept, and invited others to jump on the idea and develop it. Several outside companies — including Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies – – have emerged to work on the project.

But Musk’s SpaceX campus in Hawthorne will be the focus of the Hyperloop world Sunday as it hosts the Hyperloop Pod Competition. Two dozen student teams chosen from an original field of more than 120 have been working for two years on designs for the pods, and their efforts will culminate Sunday when their creations are propelled through a 1.25-kilometer Hyperloop test track.

The official goal of the competition is to “accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage innovation by challenging student teams to design and build the best high-speed pod.”

In layman’s terms: The fastest pod wins.

The teams began arriving in Southern California last week, since the pods must undergo a series of mechanical and structural inspections, and they must successfully complete a test run inside a 26-foot vacuum chamber.

Pods that pass those initial steps will be able to compete inside the 1.25-kilometer test track Sunday. The winner should be known by about 3:30 p.m.

Among the two dozen teams of students competing will be squads from UC Irvine, Cal State Sacramento, UC Santa Barbara, two teams from the University of Texas at Austin, and teams from India, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland and Japan.

–City News Service

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