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    Explore how 60 students at TUM Boring built the world’s fastest tunnel boring machine and won Elon Musk’s Not-a-Boring Competition in Las Vegas.

    Driven by the desire to push today’s status quo of the tunnel boring technology, Elon Musk and his tunnel boring company “The Boring Company” announced the Not-a-Boring Competition in July 2020, challenging students from around the world to design and build a tunnel boring machine, that would bore tunnels faster than a snail could crawl. Elon Musk already hosted four SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competitions in California, all of which students from TUM won. In order to compare the machines, the teams then raced their tunnel machines at the competition finals in Las Vegas in September 2021.

    Currently, we are building the second generation tunnel boring machine to compete at European Tunneling Week 2022 and Not-a-Boring Competition 2023!

    Competition Tunnel Requirements

    30m total length (98 ft)

    500 mm tunnel diameter

    Must reach a minimal depth of 1.5m (5 ft)

    Project Timeline

    Our team was founded in July 2020 right after the announcement of the competition. Since then, 60 students have been working uninterruptedly on this project full-time for over 14 months.

    July 2020 – January 2021

    Project Inception and Machine CAD Design

    After the announcement of the competition, a small team of around 10 students formed and then quickly grew up to today’s full size of more than 60 students by September 2020. During that time, the team also finished a small prototype TBM and successfully dug a 2m / 6.5 ft tunnel, gaining initial experience and an understanding for the tunnel boring field. Starting in September 2020 until January 2021, we worked on the design of our tunnel boring machine. During this time, the team spent more than 6500 hours (just) in CAD programs and the team was forced to operate remotely exclusively  due to the ongoing pandemic. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish the design of our tunnel boring machine in a record breaking 3 months and after submitting a 151 page long design packet to The Boring Company in January 2021, we prevailed against 390 other teams and our team and design was chosen as one of 12 to be invited to the finals in Las Vegas in September 2021.

    February 2021 – April 2021

    Assembly of our machine

    After successfully passing all design stages of the competition and finishing up the CAD work of our machine, assembly of the machine commenced in February 2021. Determined to succeed at the competition despite of the incredibly tight timeline, the team put in a herculean effort and managed to build and assemble our tunnel boring machine within 3 months at a construction hall in the north of Munich, provided to us by one of our industry partners.

    May 2021 – July 2021

    Testing of our TBM

    After fully assembling our machine, we moved the machine to one of an industry partner’s gravel plant in the north-east of Munich, where we tested our tunnel boring machine to ensure and optimize its functionality. During this time, the team was active on the testing site 7 days a week from early morning until well after midnight. In July 2021, we passed a big milestone by boring a full competition distance 30m / 98ft tunnel for the first time. Due to previous pandemic restrictions, it was also only at that time, that we were able to meet for the first time with the entire team in person. In July and after conclulding our extensive testing program, the machine was packed up and sent on its 6 week journey to the US for the competition finals.

    August 20th – September 5th 2021

    Machine work in Houston

    In mid August 2021, the machine arrived in Houston, where an 18-people large subgroup of our team took delivery of it. North of Houston, the 18-people team then continued to prepare and optimize the machine at a construction hall provided by one of our industrial partners for the last two weeks leading up to the competition. During those two weeks, the machine was checked for damage, component upgrades were installed and a full system and procedure test was run to ensure functionality after the machine had been exposed to sea air, humidity and salinity for a couple weeks. The competition preparations were concluded by successfully running a final 30m tunneling test before the machine was packed up one last time for its transport to the competition finals in Las Vegas.

    September 6th – September 12th 2021

    Competition Final in Las Vegas

    After over a year of hard work, everyone was filled with anticipation, when the competition finals started. In total, 8 other teams made it to the finals including highly regarded universities like ETH Zurich and MIT. After using the first couple days of the week to set up the machines, an extensive and challenging safety check conducted by The Boring Company followed. Out of all attending teams, only two teams passed the strict safety checks and were cleared for the tunneling race on September 12th: The ETH Zurich and TUM Boring. As September 12th came around, everyone was filled with excitement and the tunnel boring commenced.

    The ETH Zurich team hadn’t finished their machine and ended up not being able to start boring and after six hours of continuous tunneling, TUM Boring was officially announced as the winner of the Not-a-Boring Competition 2021, successfully concluding more than a year and thousands of hours of hard work.

    TUM Boring wins the Not-A-Boring Competition 2021

    During the course of the project, team members invested countless hours in the project, working up to 100 hours a week at peak times during extreme weather. Nobody received any material compensation and the commitment was purely on a voluntary basis. Throughout our journey leading up to the competition, we have been repeatedly told by industry experts that our endeavour is borderline impossible with the resources and time available. However, our team consisting of 60 highly motivated and, most importantly, incredibly passionate students pulled through and succeeded nonetheless. We believe that with enough passion and determination, almost anything is possible and continue to be determined to push the status quo of the possible.