Tractor team success goes beyond tradition and trophies



PHOTO:
LEXINGTON, Ky.

Cody Rakes grew up on a Marion County farm and quite naturally found a home in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment three years ago. As a freshman, he joined his peers on a very successful team that built the national champion quarter-scale tractor that year. The next year, they took second, and now in 2014, they’ve reclaimed the top spot at the recent American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition.

“There were so many people on this team for so many years who never even got to experience a second place, and I’ve got to experience two first place finishes,” he said. “It’s great to be able to show those alums what we have done with the program they helped build.”

Rakes is majoring in agricultural education and plans to teach agriculture at the high school level in the future. Being on the team takes up a lot of time, and for most married students that might be an issue. But Rakes actually gets to spend a lot of time with his wife Angela; she’s on the team too and is entering her senior year in the college’s Department of Community and Leadership Development.

Along with their team members and advisers, the Rakes’ brought home the overall trophy as well as category wins in manufacturability, safety (tied), first-time-through tech (tied), report, second place presentation, three out of four pulls, and the overall pulling award.

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 drive train 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 and testing and development.

UK team advisers Michael Sama and Tim Smith are faculty and staff members, respectively, in the college’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

“This process is a great hands-on experience,” Smith said. “It teaches them how to do things they’ll be doing when they get out there working in industry; it teaches things that we just can’t teach in the classroom.”

Sama was actually a team member for several years.

“It’s a true design experience and for someone like Cody, who isn’t in an engineering degree, the experience is valuable,” Sama said.

This year’s winning team was comprised of Cody and Angela Rakes; Michael Blum – Louisville; Shawn O'Neal - Laurel, Delaware; Alex Kloentrup - Burlington; Brad Wilson - Henderson; Brent Howard – Bardstown and Charles Crume – Bloomfield.

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 provided funding for the team 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. They plan to auction off some previous years’ tractors to possibly fund a future scholarship for team members. More information on the auction is available online at: http://www.bae.uky.edu/NewsEvents/default.shtm.

Contact: 

Michael Sama, 859-218-4325; Tim Smith, 859-218-4324

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