Ryerson’s own International Hyperloop Team was the star of president Mohamed Lachemi’s address to the Canadian Economic Club Thursday.

The hyperloop is a transportation system where a pod travels through a tube and can reach close to the speed of sound. It does not require fossil fuels to operate. It is essentially a train being sucked through a vacuum.

Members of the International Hyperloop Team, who were in the audience for Lachemi’s speech, were awarded for their work at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition at Texas A&M University back in January 2016.

The Globe and Mail recently reported that Hyperloop could cut a trip from Montreal to Toronto from five hours to just 39 minutes.

Recent Ryerson graduate Graeme Klim brought the team together in 2015 after Elon Musk, the billionaire businessman, engineer and inventor behind Tesla motors and SpaceX, released a proposal for universities from around the world to develop the technology for a hyperloop pod.

“We were able to come up with a pretty unique, innovative product and I’m happy to say that we made our mark going forward in the hyperloop’s development,” Klim said.

When Klim began his master’s degree in  2015, he connected with fellow Ryerson students Moeid Elahi, Min Adhikari and Ryerson instructor Seyed Hashemi. They all had backgrounds in aerospace engineering. Their team eventually included seven graduate students and two professors.

Klim had worked as an intern for Safran Group, a French aircraft engineering company. It was there that Klim learned how to build deployable wheels, like those on airplanes. The team adapted this technology to fit their award winning hyperloop pod. Klim, Hashemi and Elahi all said they were not hopeful at the team’s chances. They were up against schools from all over the globe, all of which had teams with many more members than Ryerson’s.

“We weren’t sure how we were going to stack up with all the universities from around the world, so we wanted to keep our expectations low. But we put our best foot forward and with the help of industry and Ryerson, we were able to come up with a unique innovative product and I’m happy to say that we made our mark,” Klim said.

The bigger teams in the competition were designing the whole pod. Ryerson’s team focused on developing a working deployable wheel system and they won the best overall subsystem innovation award.

“It’s an innovation competition and we get the innovation award,” said Wintta Ghebreiyesus, an aerospace engineering master’s student and member of the team.

Hyperloop is theoretically able to travel 1,000 m.p.h. (1,609 km/h) because the pods travel through pressurized tubes with very little air friction. According to the Globe and Mail, the American hyperloop company Hyperloop One announced last month that a Toronto-to-Ottawa-to-Montreal route was on a list of 10 projects it is considering. The Toronto-based company TransPod, which is also developing hyperloop technology, hopes to begin construction of that route and one from Calgary to Edmonton by 2022.

If a 1,000 km/h commute becomes feasible for Canadians, it will completely alter the way we design and develop cities and suburbs.

Ryerson’s International Hyperloop team earned a prominent space in Lachemi’s speech. His remarks focused on changing the way students are taught.

“Education in this country is good, sometimes very good, but it’s not sufficient. In the world that awaits them, Canadian students need more than knowledge,” Lachemi said. “They need a mix of knowledge and 21st century skills. That is flexibility, adaptability, creativity and problem solving.”

Lachemi was not only speaking of the technological advancement, but political disruption, globalization, and changing economies.

“Is the hyperloop project a sign of things to come?” said Lachemi. “Can we prepare young people for the future? Can we shape the world for the better?”

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