Anshuman Kumar (MII-PS '16)-Integrated Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Anshuman Kumar (MII-PS '16)

From Hyperloop to Tesla: Alum designs the future of transportation

According to Anshuman Kumar (MII-PS '16), the basic mantra to make big things happen is, "infinite persistence and thinking from first principles." Kumar knows firsthand how big things happen, especially when it comes to reinventing transportation. While at Carnegie Mellon, he founded and led the university's Hyperloop team, and now he's been recruited by Tesla Motors to work on the electronics that power its growing fleet of electric cars.

Discovering Hyperloop: The Fifth Mode of Transport

From a very early age, Kumar was drawn towards making things. As an engineer, he has always demonstrated undertones of entrepreneurial ambition, leading both big and small teams. Like many young professionals, he too is an admirer of Elon Musk’s work. "I would absolutely love to go to Mars someday," he confesses. Ideas like that, while far-fetched to most, are perfectly tangible for a hybrid engineer-technologist-innovator like Kumar who believes anything is possible.

In June 2015, Kumar chanced upon the kind of challenge he had always longed for: building something faster than a plane but as cheap and convenient as a train. The idea was being touted as a fifth mode of transport, and they called it "The Hyperloop." Kumar decided to jump in just as he began his experience in the Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services (MII-PS) program at CMU's Integrated Innovation Institute. Today, he credits both the program and the Institute for helping bring this dream to a reality.

The concept of Hyperloop was posed by billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk back in 2013. While stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, Musk dreamed of finding a way to reduce the commute time from San Francisco to Los Angeles from six hours down to just 30 minutes. In 2015, Musk's aerospace company SpaceX announced the Hyperloop Pod Competition, with the aim of accelerating the development of a functional Hyperloop system.

Assembling an Integrated Team at Carnegie Mellon

Upon hearing about the competition, Kumar got to work almost immediately. "The timing was perfect, and I realized very soon that this was what I’ll end up doing for the entire next year," he explains. Kumar was able to assemble an initial group in a matter of days and with just a few quick posts on social media. As word about this exciting new project spread, students from all disciplines began showing interest, and the official Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop team was born. The team today is a 60-person group of highly talented students from the MII-PS program as well as Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering, School of Design and Tepper School of Business. 

After months of designing, developing and fundraising, Kumar and his team presented their initial pod concept in January 2015 at Design Weekend at Texas A&M University. Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop was selected as one of 22 finalist teams from more than 1,000 competitors. For these chosen finalists, the competition culminates in January 2017 at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop will be competing against other top universities including MIT, Delft University of Technology and Virginia Tech. With the design completely finalized, the team is currently moving with great pace towards their first pod prototype.

Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop Pod Design

A rendering of Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop's latest pod prototype.

As the Project Manager and Lead Design Engineer, Kumar says he couldn't imagine Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop's success without the support from the Integrated Innovation Institute and the lessons he learned from the MII-PS program, "The Integrated Innovation Institute gave me unique access to resources and contacts in engineering, business and design that were instrumental in our success." He continues, "The MII-PS program also taught me key skills in project management and leadership. I've been able to draw direct parallels between how I managed the Hyperloop team and what I learned in the classroom. It was a perfect fit."

Continuing the Dream at Tesla

Soon after graduating from MII-PS in May 2016, Kumar was recruited by Tesla Motors to join the Power Electronics Team as a Mechanical Design Engineer. Now based out in Silicon Valley, he has transitioned the leadership of Hyperloop to two classmates who will guide the team at the final competition. 

After an incredible year of living and breathing product and service innovation, Kumar is eager for the next phase of his career at Tesla, "I love challenges. To an engineer, excitement lies in making things possible that weren't possible before. I had a great year here at CMU working toward exactly that and have no intentions of slowing down."

Learn about Carnegie Mellon Hyperloop's latest developments by visiting CMUHyperloop.com and following the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

By Allison Hodsdon