June 18, 2012 | By: Aimee Nielson
LEXINGTON, KY.

Each of the past 14 years, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture students have designed a quarter-scale tractor and entered it into an international competition in Peoria, Ill. Until 2012, the team always placed high, but never captured the top spot. This year, the Wildcats entry dominated the competition, nearly sweeping the judging categories and earning 16 trophies.

“I’m happy for the team finally finishing on top after coming so close in past competitions,” said Tim Smith, team adviser and engineer associate in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “I think back on all of the past UK teams and our alumni and credit them for the legacy they’ve built and their persistence to continuously improve our effort.”

The team is comprised of undergraduate students in biosystems and agricultural engineering, plant and soil sciences, mechanical engineering, agricultural education, agricultural economics and community and leadership development. Students design and build a quarter-scale tractor with the oversight of their advisers.

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers sponsors the competition and describes it as unique among student engineering design contests in that it provides a realistic "360-degree" workplace experience. Given only an engine and a set of tires, the teams spend the academic year designing and building utility or recreational pulling tractors that they present and demonstrate. Judges evaluate teams on a written design report, a design inspection and a formal presentation to industry experts playing the role of a corporate management team. Running on a 10-percent ethanol fuel blend, the students then put the machines to the test in a series of tractor pulls.

“Participating in this competition is such a great experience for our students,” Smith said. “Not only do they benefit from the hands-on experience of designing, building and testing the tractor, but they work first-hand with outside suppliers through tough production schedules to acquire component parts needed to build the tractor. This experience will carry over to benefit them in their future careers.”

Michael Blum was a UK freshman from Louisville during the 2011-2012 academic year. He said coming into a university with more than 28,000 students can be intimidating and the tractor team gave him a place to belong.

“The tractor team gave me the opportunity to turn a huge school into one that felt pretty small,” Blum said. “It allowed me to form friendships with upperclassmen and to begin to form relationships with professors. The opportunities (I had) to work with professional engineers, to work in the shop and to plan and design the tractor are like none other.” 

Christina Lyvers has participated in some capacity in the tractor team for the past seven years. First she was on the team as a student and now, as a graduate research assistant, she is an adviser for the team.

“Even after helping build seven tractors, I have learned something new every year,” she said. “The dedication put forth by students on this team was astonishing. They set out with a goal at the beginning of the year to win the competition and worked hard on all aspects of the competition. Not only did they accomplish the goal of winning overall, they brought home several other awards.”

“We’ve learned over the years that consistency in all the judging categories is what it takes to do well in the overall scoring; this year it all came together,” Smith said. “UK wasn’t just consistent; they excelled in every category, and I’m very proud of the way they did it.”

In addition to taking home the Detra-Wehner traveling trophy, Kentucky received a plaque, $1,500, and a $2,000 scholarship sponsored by Case IH New Holland, to be awarded to a team member of the team's choosing.

Other categories the UK team won were craftsmanship, manufacturability, serviceability, test and development, safety, ergonomics and sound level. They also won the innovation award and the team presentation.

The winning entry will be on display at the college’s annual Ag Roundup at the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year. For more information about the team, visit the website at http://www.bae.uky.edu/wildcatpulling.

Team members were John Evans, Chance Corum, Jordon Cook, Nick Rhea, Eric Varner, Catie Lester, Michael Blum, Angela Lyvers and Cody Rakes. Advisers were Tim Smithy, Michael Sama, Carl King and Christina Lyvers.

Corporate sponsors for the ASABE 15th Annual International ¼-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition are AGCO, Briggs & Stratton, Case IH, Caterpillar, Deere & Company, New Holland, SolidWorks and Titan International. Additional support was provided by Campbell Scientific, Inc., GSI Grain Systems, Katie McDonald Photography, Precision Planting, Claas, RCI Engineering, Central City Scale, igus Inc., Miller Electric Manufacturing and Star Equipment. The Kentucky Corn Growers Association sponsored UK’s entry and supplied the 10-percent ethanol fuel blend for all the teams in the competition.

Contact: 

Christina Lyvers, 859-257-3000, ext. 112; Tim Smith, 859-257-3000, ext. 118