SJSU students to unveil their innovative solar-powered Automated Transit Network design at upcoming Maker Faire

In an interdisciplinary effort, San José State University engineering, business, design and urban planning students are determined to revolutionize transportation with their new Spartan Superway, a 100 percent solar-powered Automated Transit Network (ATN), using driverless podcars. The ATN project was first motivated by a solar design challenge proposed by the Institute of Sustainable Transportation (INIST) two years ago, to help cities move toward a more sustainable future.

Preparing for Maker Faire, Cory Ostermann, controls team, on left, with Paolo Mercado, bogie team, test one of the 1/12th scale model pods on the ATN guideway (Randall Morioka is kneeling, Man Ho in the back).
Preparing for Maker Faire, Cory Ostermann, controls team, on bottom left, with Paolo Mercado, bogie team, on bottom right, test one of the 1/12th scale model pods on the ATN guideway (Man Ho, is kneeling in center, Randall Morioka, is standing in the back).

ATNs are public transportation systems in which podcars travel along a track or guideway at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Since the guideway is suspended above city streets, it operates without impacting pedestrians or interfering with traffic. There are currently four operational systems in the world: the oldest in the United States, in Morgantown, W.Va.; the others are in Masdar City, United Arab Emirates; London Heathrow Airport; and Suncheon Bay eco-park in South Korea.

Next stop for the Spartan Superway – San Mateo, where students will showcase their work at the Maker Faire, dubbed “the greatest show and tell on earth,” May 17-18. In collaboration with INIST, the SJSU exhibit will feature a full-scale prototype, an operating scale model, a virtual 4D model, and more. This semester, students have built a full-size podcar attached to a bogie, and suspended from a 16-foot-long guideway, with solar panels installed on top.

Man Ho verifies operation of the 1/12 scale of ATN model with Cory Ostermann.
Man Ho verifies operation of the 1/12 scale of ATN model with Cory Ostermann.

“It’s been a pleasure working with SJSU faculty and students on the ATN effort over the past four semesters,” says Ron Swenson, co-founder of INIST. “This interdisciplinary effort is a prime example of the game-changing results students can achieve when they’re offered the opportunity to design solutions to significant real-world challenges.

“The prestigious Maker Faire is a profound opportunity for students to showcase their work at a very high-profile event, which is attended by 60,000 people,” says Swenson. “The Spartan SuperWay will be scrutinized by a sophisticated audience, a very demanding reality check to validate their achievements at this critical juncture in our collaboration.”