Grad Student Schlicting: Innovating Mass Transportation

Michael Schlicting, MS/PhD Candidate
Transportation Administration & Community Development

Transportation is nothing new to MS/PhD candidate Michael Schlicting. Growing up with a mother who worked for United Airlines, teenage Michael would spend his free time taking standby flights to and from various airports just for the sake of flying. After a brief period of interest in piloting, he ultimately decided to work behind the scenes starting in the cargo division at United Airlines, setting up airport operations. After joining the MBA program here at University of Wisconsin, Michael began working on Railflyer, a project intended to replace short regional flights with a high speed passenger rail system. Recognizing the near impossibility of this project, Michael was pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming amount of support he received at SoHE. Dr. Cynthia Jasper, Civil Society and Community Studies Chair, helped him put together a handcrafted graduate degree to study not only building a high speed rail network, but predicting the effects one would have on communities, cities and regions.

The Road to Hyperloop
Badgerloop pod

Badgerloop’s high speed pod.

At the Spring 2016 Student Organization Fair, Michael, a representative of Badger Rail, met some representatives from the Badgerloop organization. Both teams discovered there was a great deal of overlap in their interests and have collaborated ever since. As a consequence of this, Badger Rail was happy to help as Badgerloop prepared for the 2017 SpaceX Hyperloop pod competition in Hawthorne, California. As a leader of the feasibility team, Michael and his colleagues (almost entirely undergrads) were responsible for figuring out exactly how to build a hyperloop transportation system, including costs, ridership, and commercializing the technology into “something your grandma could ride in.” After working intensively on the pod for over a year, Badgerloop left the competition with one of two innovation awards for its 15-foot-long, 2,100-pound pod. Michael and the other members felt that the fact they were the only team to include designs on making cities greener and more livable by placing transportation infrastructure below ground likely contributed to the judges’ decision.

The most memorable parts for Michael included a chance to meet and host Elon Musk,  founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc, in the Badgerloop pod, working with other grad students and undergrads, and realizing “it is possible to fit ten engineers in a hotel jacuzzi designed for five people.” 

Click here to read more about Badgerloop’s experience at the SpaceX Hyperloop competition.

Sign that reads Hyperloop competition

SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition

UW student being interviewed at Hyperloop competition.

Badgerloop member being interviewed near pod

Elon Musk with Badgerloop team

Elon Musk viewing the Badgerloop pod

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