Spend your summer break solving America's high-speed transportation problems.

The Hyperloop, America’s favorite probably unbuildable piece of infrastructure in a country full of crumbling infrastructure, wants you!

Just in time for summer vacation, Elon Musk has issued a challenge to the precious few young STEM majors out there: design a Hyperloop passenger pod (via NYT Bits). Musk’s SpaceX company announced some preliminary details for the pod competition “geared towards university students and independent engineering teams.” Here’s more of the basics, from the official contest page:

To support this competition, SpaceX will construct a one-mile test track adjacent to our Hawthorne, California headquarters. Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend at the track, currently targeted for June 2016.

According to the contest overview, interested parties can submit an intent to compete this fall, with a final design deadline of December. Entrants will get feedback from a panel “mainly of SpaceX engineers, Tesla Motors engineers, and university professors” during a January 2016 design weekend at Texas A&M. The June 2016 competition will be held at the Hawthorne test track; SpaceX will “likely” build a demonstration pod, but it won’t be eligible to win.

SpaceX’s official reason for holding the contest is “to accelerate the development of a functional prototype and to encourage student innovation.” Not to distract America’s best and brightest young minds from far more pressing transportation and infrastructure engineering problems. And not to fatten Elon Musk’s pockets: the contest site reminds us that neither SpaceX nor Musk is affiliated with commercial Hyperloop companies.

More design specifications will emerge in August, according to the initial guidelines. These will including details about pod safety mechanisms required to avoid a “tube breach,” sensors needed to aid pod navigation, and of course a recommended “pod outer mold line (OML).” Pod amenities capable of handling the horrible vomiting inevitably induced by hurtling humans through a narrow cylindrical tube at 800 miles an hour are evidently optional.

All easy jabs aside, an impressive amount of mental capital is being expended on turning the Hyperloop into something less than a hyper-concept. UCLA has created a one-year Hyperloop development program with an end goal of a full-scale prototype. And a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is reportedly moving forward with a five-mile test track in California that’s capable of handling pod speeds of 200 mph.

Prove the skeptics wrong, kids. Prove them wrong.

H/t: New York Times Bits

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