After a long, soggy, weekend the Kansas State University Wildcat Pullers have earned top honors in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition. The honor was bestowed after a four-day on-site event held at Expo Gardens in Peoria, Ill.
The student design events requires students to research, design, build and put to use a quarter-scale tractor working within the guidelines set down by the ASABE IQS team. The program, which opens in September the previous year, is in its 16th year and for 2013 had 29 schools from North America in the competition.
The program does culminate in a working tractor and throughout the duration of each year's program students get significant real-world experience in a wide range of design, manufacturing and engineering issues. "Students put their classroom knowledge to work in a real-world setting," Says Jim Kopriva, co-chair of this year's event. He also notes that students who take part in this event are recognized by major ag equipment manufacturers as top candidates during recruiting.
In addition to winning the main competition, Kansas State University took top honors in the "freshman" X-Scale competition where underclassman compete with a tractor from a previous year - but still must meet specific performance requirements including the creation of a detailed written design report and oral presentation to an engineering team where the team "justifies" its tractor in a fictional marketing session.
For the 2013 A-Team competition, which involves creation of a new tractor, Kansas State student engineers developed a proprietary driveline for their machine that also features mechanical front-wheel drive. It's "operator-station-forward" design is a trademark for this team, which has been part of the competition for most of its 16 years.
Kansas State students were recognized with a Test and Development Award as well (which does not count toward its overall score, but is a recognition of the work done), for using the most comprehensive testing and development program in the production of their tractor. And the tractor was recognized for its maneuverability in that part of the competition, where the tractor must move through a complex obstacle course in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of deductions. In this year's competition, North Dakota State University tied in maneuverability.
The Kansas State overall award comes from a total points score in a number of areas. The 2013 team came in second for its written design report, which is reviewed by professional engineers and scored based on a detailed system that reviews student justification for design choices, testing parameters and more.
Kansas State also scored third in its team presentation, where team members present their tractor's design to a group of engineers and sales and marketing people in a setting where students must provide information about the hows and whys of their engineering choices for their tractor.
Where students get most excited, however, is when the tractors are actually put to work on the pulling track. There are four heats in two classes - 1,000-pound and 1,500-pound. In that part of the competition, Kansas State came in second overall after four pulls.
Add all those pieces together and Kansas State University comes out as the winner in a competition that included 29 schools from around the United States. The rest of the top five included University of Kentucky (last year's winner) in second; Modesto Junior College, Modesto, Calif., in third; Universite Laval, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; and in fifth place, Pennsylvania State University.