A Hardly ‘Boring’ Achievement

Student Team Wins Safety Award in Elon Musk’s Digging Contest
By Chris Carroll | Illustration by Kolin Behrens

A University of Maryland team that competes in international challenges centered on a futuristic train-in-a-tube concept walked away from a tunnel-digging contest in Las Vegas last semester in the top four and hoisting the safety award.

What the approximately 25 UMDLoop members didn’t do—actually run their digging machine they’d hand-built on campus—helped earn that prize from the Boring Company, established by billionaire Elon Musk to accelerate construction of his Hyperloop project.

Of 12 qualifiers, only four—from Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and UMD—were cleared to dig. As they prepared to launch the complex, multiton tunnel-boring machine they’d trucked cross-country, the engineering, physics and computer science Terps realized its sensors had been damaged in transit. Rather than risk further breakage or injury to team members, they withdrew—earning kudos for a wise choice.

UMDLoop previously finished in the top six of 24 teams competing to drive experimental vehicles, or pods, through tunnels in the 2017 SpaceX Hyperloop Challenge. While not fully satisfied this year, team members are proud of their accomplishment and excited about a Boring Company invitation to demonstrate their machine later this year.

“We’re a fully undergraduate-run team, and every decision, every design—it’s just us,” says team leader Shane Bonkowski ’23, an aerospace engineering major.


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