SpaceX CEO Elon Musk put in a surprise personal appearance at Texas A&M University on Saturday, as the results of his Hyperloop design competition were announced. A student-led team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took first spot for their design of a futuristic pod designed to travel at some 700mph. SpaceX – Musk’s own company – has been busy building a test track in California, while urging student engineers to work on pioneering designs to operate on it.

Musk’s much talked about Hyperloop concept involves floating a travel pod in a tube – either on an air cushion or using magnetism – and firing it at high speeds between cities. Musk has talked about the journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco taking only 30 minutes, and has excited many with his revolutionary ideas on travel for the future.

The team from MIT consisted of 25 graduate students from the disciplines of aeronautics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and business. Project manager John Mayo G spoke of the team’s excitement about their design and the competition: “We want to work on new technologies that help shape the world for the better … and Hyperloop is one of those, so of course we were going to do this competition.”

The pod would travel in a low air-resistance tube at speeds up to 700mph
The pod would travel in a low air-resistance tube at speeds up to 700mph

Other teams who made the top five included those from the Netherland’s Delft University, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California at Irvine and Virginia Tech. The process is far from over – teams have now been asked to produce their designs at one half scale and ready them for test runs in California. Mr Musk has urged the teams to be as “hands-on” as possible in the building of their designs.

Tech entrepreneur and investor Musk, 44, pioneered the Hyperloop concept and is also CEO of Tesla Motors. A co-founder of Zip2 and Paypal, his worth of some $12.5 billion ranks him as the 37th wealthiest person in America. Along with the radical Hyperloop concept, Musk is known for his idea on producing a jet aircraft powered by electric fan propulsion.