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UKAg tractor team repeats national championship

 

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Students from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment put together a successful team that built the national champion quarter-scale tractor for the second year in a row at the recent American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition.

 

Success is nothing new to the team with three first-place finishes in the past four years. In 2013, the team placed second.

“There are a lot of things that drive the Wildcat Pulling team to be so successful,” said Michael Sama, team adviser and assistant professor for the college’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “Most of all, it takes students who are willing to sacrifice quite a bit of time and effort.”

The average team member spends a few hundred hours during the school year fundraising, designing the tractor and writing the report.

“Most of our students work during the summer, but they come in during evenings and weekends to finish what they've worked toward all year,” Sama said. “I should point out that the students don't get college credit for being involved. It's a completely voluntary commitment which allows a diverse group of students to participate at whatever level they are comfortable."

ASABE states that the International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition is unique among student engineering design contests in that it provides a realistic 360-degree workplace experience. Student teams are given a 31-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires. The team then determines the design of their tractor. A panel of industry experts judges each design for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, maneuverability, safety, sound level and ergonomics. Teams also submit a written design report in advance of the competition, and on-site, they must sell their design in a formal presentation to industry experts playing the role of a corporate management team. Finally, the teams put machines to the test in a performance demonstration comprised of four tractor pulls.

Through involvement in the competition, students gain practical experience in the design of drivetrain systems, tractor performance, manufacturing processes, analysis of tractive forces, weight transfer and strength of materials. In addition, they also develop skills in communication, leadership, teamwork, fundraising, testing and development.

“I've been on the tractor team for three years, and it has been a great experience,” said Brent Howard, a senior studying biosystems and agricultural engineering. “I thoroughly believe it is the best way to get real-world experience while still in school. It's more than just a pulling competition. It is really geared toward showing students what it is like to design a product from the ground up.”

Howard said being part of the team affords members to learn about dealing with money, deadlines and product regulations.

“The people who judge these areas are actual industry engineers who are full of knowledge about industry standards and can pass this knowledge on to us through judging our designs and commenting on what we did well and what could be improved,” he said.

The 2015 team swept the performance pulling events, placing first in the 1,000-pound class with Brad Wilson driving and first in both 1,500-pound classes with Cody Rakes at the wheel.

The durability contest was new to the competition this year. Each team had to make eight timed laps around a course consisting of a bumpy track on one side and an 80-foot track of loose sand on the other. UK team member Jarred Garrett achieved the fastest time to win the inaugural event.

In addition to the performance events, the team placed first in the oral team presentation and the safety category of design judging. Other rankings include:

  • 2nd – Ergonomics
  • 3rd – Serviceability
  • 2nd – Design judging overall
  • 3rd – Written design report
  • 3rd – Maneuverability

 

Team members attending the competition were: Brad Wilson (captain), Matt Fogle, Lee Frazier, Jarred Garrett, Brent Howard, Alex Kloentrup, Shawn O’Neal, Cody Pryor, Angela Rakes, Cody Rakes, Surya Dasika, nee Saket and Aaron Shearer. Advisers and supporters included: John Evans, Carl King, Sue Nokes, Mike Sama, Tim Smith, Aaron Turner and Eric Varner.

The team relies heavily on sponsors to provide supplies and fuel. Altec Industries, Inc. supplied the laser-cut steel, Qualex Manufacturing provided metal forming assistance and the Kentucky Corn Growers Association provided funding and also sponsored all of the fuel at the competition. Funding was also provided by the UK College of Engineering, and the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering provided shop space and much support to get the tractor built and transported. Team members spent many fall Saturdays parking cars for football games to raise funds for team expenses.

The winning tractor will be on display at the Kentucky State Fair in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s exhibit in the West Wing.