Tractor team prepares for competition



South Dakota State University’s Quarter Scale Tractor team is a team of students that works together to build a quarter scale tractor to be placed in a national competition against tractors from many other universities. 

The national contest is traditionally held in Peoria, Ill. during the first full weekend in June. The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) sponsors the annual event. 

“The competition is designed to challenge students in our discipline to think about the kinds of issues that the engineers have to consider when they design tractors and combines and any other pieces of ag equipment and it’s also designed to allow them to have a lot of fun at the same time,” Dan Humburg, an SDSU professor of ag and biosystems engineering, said. 

Humburg outlined the parts of the competition that are taken into consideration for scoring. He said there is always a tractor pull event. New this year is a durability track test where the machines will potentially have to pull a weighted wagon over severe bumps, and some sand pits and will be measured by the amount of time it takes to finish the course.  There are also written reports and oral presentations that will account for part of the possible points in the contest. 

“Students also have to compete with a written design report, an oral presentation of their tractor and its features and the design that they built into it, a design competition where industry engineers pore over their machine and look at it, ask questions,” Humburg said. “They essentially are looking to see ‘did you do this the way that we would do it in manufacturing and features built into the tractor.’ Teams that do really well in the competition are teams that try to hit on all of those cylinders instead of only focus on the machine itself and the pulling part of the competition.”

Humburg said this year’s team is pretty good. He mentioned that they are farther ahead of where they have been in previous years. Being farther ahead gives the team a good chance to get their machine operational in time to run some tests on the tractor before they actually get to the competition. 

“You really want to be able to test it, and if you’re going to break it, you want to break it here before you get to the competition and have it break in front of everybody, yet that sometimes happens,” Humburg said. 

SDSU’s team has had some success in the past depending on how a person defines success according to Humburg. The club has not won or been at the very top of the competition, overall, but last year SDSU’s machine competed in all aspects of the competition. It placed in the middle of the group in the pulling event, which is a very important event. The prior year, SDSU’s tractor performed effectively and place second in one of the four heats in the pulling event. 

“We compete against teams from all over the nation, there’s teams from Canada as well… It’s nice being able to see all of your hard work actually be able to compete,” Sam Mellgren, a junior agricultural and biosystems engineering major and team manager, said. 

This year’s team consists of between 40 and 60 members, and meets Monday and Thursday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. in Agricultural Engineering 127. 

“It’s pretty easy to get involved. Anybody and everybody can do it, no matter if you’re an ag engineering major, or ag business, or animal science, or if you’re just an econ major, it doesn’t matter, anybody can get involved,” Tim Deinert, a senior agricultural and biosystems engineering major and the team’s fundraising and business manager, said. “All you have to do is just contact Sam Mellgren or me or anybody that’s a part of the team, if you know them, and we can find a role for you, find you something to do. We are always looking for members… It doesn’t matter who you are because there is people of all majors on the team right now.”