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MU quarter-scale tractor team finishes third at student design competition

The University of Missouri College of Engineering quarter-scale tractor team, Torque ‘n’ Tigers, placed third overall at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ (ASABE) annual International ¼ Scale Tractor Student Design Competition in Peoria, Ill.

“Being a freshman and being new to the team, we talked with the seniors from last year and took their ideas and incorporated them with our own,” said the team’s “X-team” captain Eli Bartley.

Bartley, graduating seniors Seth Wheeler, Quintin Binder and Michael Reinkemeyer, fellow freshman Dexter Barmann, and two of the team’s three advisers, A. Bulent Koc and Dan Downing, an MU Extension associate, made up the Mizzou delegation to the four-day event.  They were one of 12 teams that competed as an X-team tractor entry at the event, held May 31 to June 3, 2012.  Leon Schumacher, a professor in agricultural systems management, also advises the team.

Mizzou Torque ‘n’ Tigers placed two points behind overall second place finisher Penn State and 53 points behind first place finisher Kansas State University.

The competition is divided into two classes: A-team tractors and X-team tractors. A-teams use newly built tractors that have never been used in competition. X-teams’ tractors have previously competed, though they have been redesigned and rebuilt or modified and are competing  for the first time with those revisions. This enables teams to compete each year without building new tractors. For Mizzou Torque ‘n’ Tigers, upperclassmen spend the majority of their time working on an A-team tractor, while freshmen and sophomores focus primarily on the X-team tractor.

“An X-team tractor is the reworked, rebuilt or modified tractor that was previously entered in the competition. Designs for the X-team tractors are usually 25 to 30 percent different from the previous year’s tractor,” said Koc, an assistant professor in agricultural engineering.

Teams in both categories must adhere to a set of rules and regulations, including certain safety, maneuverability, sound and other checks, guidelines set prior to the competition.

Koc said much of the first day of competition is dedicated to ensuring a team’s tractor passes all the eligibility requirements; judges often inspect the tractors throughout the day.

“Each team gets the same engine or engines from a company,” Koc said. “The engine company sends a representative to ensure that no modifications were made to those engines.”

X-teams are judged on three components: a written report, team presentation and tractor pull. MU’s best performance was in the tractor pull section, where the team scored a combined 799 out of a possible 800 points.

Teams have two attempts at achieving the longest pull of a weighted “sled.” A weight attached to the sled moves forward as the tractor pulls, making the pull more difficult with each foot.

Oral presentations and written reports include the details of the design, schematics and production cost estimates of the tractors.

“It’s like a marketing pitch,” Koc said. “The oral presentation lasts 15 minutes followed by questions and answers. Two or three members from the team give the presentation to industry professionals, who act as the judges.”

“We talked about the strengths of last years tractor, what was weak and how we worked on that,” Bartley said. “We put a lot of drawings into the presentation. The judges liked how we pointed out the strengths of last year’s tractor.”

The International ¼ Scale Tractor Student Design Competition is an annual event that brings together tractor teams from universities across the U.S. and Europe. The competition is aimed at providing a realistic and professional experience for students.

The 105-year-old American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers is an organization that promotes agricultural, food and biological systems engineering to members of academia and industry. ASABE has in excess of 9,000 members in more than 100 countries.