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UK Wildcat tractor team places high at international competition



PHOTO: provided by ASABE
LEXINGTON, Ky.

Once again, students from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment put together a successful team that built one of the top entries at the recent American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition.

This year, the team’s offering placed third overall. Success is nothing new to the team with three first-place finishes in the past five years. In 2013, the team placed second.

“The Wildcat Pulling Team is always successful in many ways,” said Michael Sama, team adviser and assistant professor for the college’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “The key to that success is the students who are willing to sacrifice quite a bit of time and put forth their best efforts.”

The average team member spends a few hundred hours during the school year fundraising, designing the tractor and writing the report.

“Most of our students work during the summer, but they come in during evenings and weekends to finish what they've worked toward all year,” Sama said. “The students don't get college credit for being involved. It's a completely voluntary commitment that allows a diverse group of students to participate at whatever level they are comfortable."

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. 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 three tractor pulls.

Through involvement in the competition, students gain practical experience in the design of drivetrain 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, testing and development.

The 2016 team placed first in the tractor pull category, second in durability and third in maneuverability, for an overall third place finish. The overall winning team was the University of Nebraska, which just happened to have two former Wildcat Pulling Team members Joe Luck and John Evans as advisers.

Team members were: Shawn O’Neal (captain), Brent Howard, Lee Frazier, Chris Good, Matthew Wagner and Garrett Daniels. Advisers were: Tim Smith, Michael Sama, Sue Nokes and Aaron Turner.

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 Association provided funding 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.

The tractor will be on display at the Kentucky State Fair in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s exhibit in the West Wing.

Contact: 

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

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