Gearing up for Competition

Farmer Iron

Imagine being an engineering student and having to build a tractor from scratch. Happens every year.

Published on: May 9, 2013

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I have a soft-spot in my heart for the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International 1/4 Scale Tractor Student Design Competition - say that three times fast.

In this event, students design and build a working tractor following a specific set of rules for engines, transmissions and other features, then load them up and head to Peoria, Ill., for a little competition. Or rather, a whole lot of competition.

This is a student design competition on the same order as any offered in other organizations. The students must prepare a detailed design document that details the product they've built. They must cost out the product and make presentations to panels of engineers. In addition, each student group must make a design/marketing presentation to a representative panel of industry folks.

CAREFUL STEERING: Maneuverability is just one test students have to survive as part of the ASABE 1/4 Scale Tractor competition.
CAREFUL STEERING: Maneuverability is just one test students have to survive as part of the ASABE 1/4 Scale Tractor competition.

That panel is to include both engineers and "marketing" people just as it would in the real world. I take part in presentation reviews as the "marketing" person looking at the reports, and listening to their design presentations and rating them. It's fascinating for me, harrowing for the students.

Of course - all eyes are on the tractor pull. An event where the rubber truly meets the road for these student-built machines. They pull a sled, there are weight requirements, and the competition is fierce. If you're around Peoria the weekend after Memorial Day you might want to head to Expo Gardens for a look.

One little part of the competition is maneuverability. The photo on this page shows a tractor from two years ago going through the process. Yes those are golf balls on those stands, and there are detractions for knocking a golf ball off, for moving a stand and, of course, for knocking one down. It's pretty amazing competition and fun to watch. Not so fun for the driver.

Yes at the end of this month and early in June good times will be had by all.