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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Musk’s surprise showing

Elon+Musk%2C+founder+and+CEO+of+SpaceX+and+the+Hyperloop+concept%2C+visited+campus+Saturday+for+the+Hyperloop+Pod+Design+Competition.
Photo by Alexis Will

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX and the Hyperloop concept, visited campus Saturday for the Hyperloop Pod Design Competition.

It was a surprise many hoped for but few saw coming — Elon Musk, the billionaire visionary responsible for the Hyperloop concept, made an appearance at the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition’s final day Saturday at Texas A&M.
Musk’s visit was highly rumored in the days leading up to the competition and throughout the weekend, but it remained a secret until after the announcement of the final award for the number-one overall hyperloop design, taken home by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Today another hashtag popped up, and the hashtag was #WhereisElon,” said Steve Davis, Hyperloop lead engineer on the SpaceX team as he wrapped up the awards ceremony. “I think we might be able to answer that question for you right now.”
Musk walked onto the stage as Davis finished his remarks to a roar of excitement throughout the packed venue, as those not already standing took to their feet in applause. Musk spent roughly 30 minutes on stage discussing his dream for the Hyperloop and the impressions he took away after viewing some of the designs.
“It’s clear that the public and the world want something new, and I think that you all are going to bring it to them,” Musk said.
After an opening statement that lasted about 10 minutes, Musk spent the bulk of his time in a Q&A session with the competitors around him, answering questions on a range of topics that touched on everything from the Hyperloop to his rocket start-up SpaceX and his motivation for dreaming up such world-changing ideas.
Several of the questions focused on the source of the Hyperloop concept, and Musk’s mundane response drew laughter from much of the crowd.
“What inspired me was, I was stuck in L.A. traffic and I was about an hour late for a talk, and I as thinking, ‘Man, there’s gotta be some better way to get around,’” Musk said.
Musk said he went on to casually mention the idea at the tech talk he was scheduled for that afternoon, and the idea took on a life of its own after that.
“I thought people would just not ask me about it in the future, but then they did,” Musk said.
Other questions took on a more technical nature, as competitors sought Musk’s input on what Hyperloop designs he favored. His response redirected the question to those assembled however, as he pointed out that no one knew the answer yet.
“The fundamental physics and economics should drive the true solution,” Musk said. “And I’m not sure we know what that is yet. That’s what we’re really doing here — this is a journey of discovery to say what is the right solution.”
The questions soon turned to topics outside of Hyperloop and often touched on Musk’s signature venture — Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, a company whose fast-paced rocket launches and technological gambles have catapulted it to the forefront of the aerospace industry and public discussions.
“I wanted to get involved in things that at least had the potential to change the world,” Musk said after a competitor asked about his motivation for founding SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Musk’s electric car company.
Musk’s surprise visit and Q&A was met with an overwhelming buzz throughout the crowd.
“My fellow students and I were already ecstatic following the awards ceremony and A&M’s advance in the design-build category,” said Matthew Wescott, aerospace engineering senior and member of the design team “TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop.”“Then comes the build-up and surprise that Elon Musk is here. I think getting to have a Q&A with him, someone who we look to as a trailblazer for our generation’s innovators, meant more to us than winning alone.”
Christian Sotelo, aerospace engineering senior and another member of “TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop”, said Musk’s appearance highlighted the idea that the weekend’s competition wasn’t just an academic exercise, but that the engineering done by the competing teams has a chance at changing the world.
“When I saw Elon my first thought was, ‘Wow, we actually are making history right here at Texas A&M, and I’m in awe of that our team is helping set the stepping stones for the fifth mode of transportation and the future,’” Sotelo said.

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