However, this is tractor power --
quarter-scale tractor power, to be exact.
The Illini Pullers are fresh from an
international quarter-scale tractor competition in June in East
Moline, where they placed eighth in pulling and 12th overall.
Entries were judged in a variety of categories, including tractor
safety, appearance, maneuverability and pulling ability. Written
reports, which detail the design and manufacturing process, and an
oral presentation, which highlights the tractor design, are also
major components of the competition.
The tractor competition was organized
by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and sponsored by
companies such as John Deere, AGCO, Caterpillar, Case and Kubota.
The event capped off an entire year of hard work.
At the beginning of the school year,
each team in the competition is given a Briggs and Stratton engine
and four Firestone drive tires. Teams cannot alter their engine in
any way, and the remainder of the tractor has to be designed and
manufactured by the students.
Requirements for the tractor change
from year to year, said Scott Dixon, the electrical team leader for
the Illini Pullers. This year's teams were forced to choose between
low technology (manual power train, standard clutch) and high
technology, which was the Illini team's choice.
Their tractor, named The Undisputed
Chief, used electronically actuated hydraulics. It was also
designed to use a computer, but that had to be scrapped due to
Jay Peterson, president of the Illini
Pullers, said the yearlong project is a major time commitment for
the most active members of the team.
"The first semester is devoted to
research and design, and the second semester is manufacturing and
testing," said Peterson. "During the manufacturing phase, many of us
would work from 5 or 6 p.m. until after midnight during the week,
and 18-hour days on Saturdays weren't uncommon."
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If that seems a bit intense, another
component to the competition allows new members, usually freshmen
and sophomores, to get involved at a more basic level. Schools are
encouraged to rebuild the tractor they entered the previous year,
fixing known problem areas and taking it back to competition in a
separate event called the X-team Competition.
Alan Hansen, faculty adviser for the
Pullers, believes this is beneficial for everyone.
"You let the younger students, who
don't have as much experience, get involved without having the
responsibility of building a whole new tractor," he said. "And the
more senior students can still help them a little bit with the older
Peterson sees the entire competition as
a valuable way to introduce students to the new-product design
"Team members learn what goes into
design of a product," said Peterson, "including research,
manufacturing, communication, presentation, customer satisfaction
and administrative skills."
Hansen believes participation in the
small-scale tractor competition is excellent experience that could
translate into employment opportunities down the road.
"If I were an employer like John Deere,
and I saw the quarter-scale competition on an applicant's resume,
that would take them up a notch in terms of their ability."
agrees. "Being a part of this team enabled me to put the skills I
learned in the classroom to work in a practical, hands-on way before
I enter the work force," he said.
of Illinois news release]