Tractor From Scratch

By Heidi Kronaizl News Editor

When walking into the shop in the Agricultural Engineering building, one will likely find members of the quarter-scale tractor team hard at work. Their tractor may be small, but for the team, it can bring them big success. 

The team has about 20 members, and most of them are agricultural engineering or agriculture systems technology majors. Their quarter-sized tractor will be entered in the ASABE International Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition. For the third consecutive year, the team has entered in this competition. Following strict guidelines given by ASABE, the tractor will be tested at competition, competing against 25 teams from all over the United States and Canada. 

“There’s a strict guideline of rules that are given out to us,” said freshman team member Chris Wall. “I know we can’t soup up the engine and there are specific weight requirements … there has to be metal housing around everything. Anything that moves has to have a protector around it.” 

The weight limit of the tractor is 800 pounds without the driver, and the team has struggled with this in the past. 

“[Weight limit] can be the biggest challenge,” said team captain Anders Jacobson. “The rule book from the organization dictates the rules. Competition is five days long. … In the beginning there are technical inspections, safety feature specifications and weigh-in.” 

The events include tractor pulls, with weights put on a sled, and a maneuverability test where the tractor drives between cones. 

“[We give a] formal design report on why we built the tractor the way we did,” Jacobson said.

After the team has given its report, representatives who are in attendance from Caterpillar Tractors headquarters have a question-and-answer session with the team members. 

In 2012 SDSU’s team finished 21st overall, and in 2011, 9th overall.

The process of building the tractor begins long before the competition, during the fall semester. Each part is individually designed, but overall design is done collectively by the whole team. For example, team members decide whether to use two-wheel or four-wheel drive and where the drive controls should be.

Featured in the tractor is a 31 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine, given to the team by ASABE along with the tractor’s tires. Other than that, the tractor the team is entering this year is built from scratch — along with all the other tractors at competition.

“We can go to the junkyard and get stuff,” Wall said. “Our rear axles we got from the junkyard.” 

The tractor also has a clutch taken out of a snowmobile, a steel body and a dry cell battery. It has two-wheel drive and uses gasoline. 

Once the tractor is completed, the team takes it out to practice. Because there is snow on the ground, the team practices in the Animal Science Arena. 

Although the quarter-scale tractor team receives money from Students’ Association, that doesn’t cover all the costs. This year, the team received $3,000 from SA, but its budget was cut for the following year to $2,500. The team does not fundraise, but it has several sponsors whose logos are on the tractor. The steelwork is donated by Twin City Fan, and other businesses donate parts as well. All labor is completed by the team and is voluntary.

The team is always looking for new members — those of any level of experience. 

“We’re not well-known,” Jacobson said. “We don’t publicize ourselves very much.” 

The team makes presentations to the “Introduction to Agriculture Systems Technology” class, agricultural engineering classes and students who attend the Future Farmers of America Convention.

The quarter-scale tractor team hopes to have their tractor completed before the end of finals week and will be heading off to Peoria, Ill., May 30 through June 2, to compete.