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Hard Work and Heartbreak

Student design competition wraps up with the popular tractor pull and some teams find building a working tractor can challenge you.

The excitement was high Saturday night with the first round of competition pulling came for the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International 1/4-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition - or IQS for short. This was the 1,050-pound class with students putting their machines to the test - with the runs counting - for the first time.

It's a lot of fun. The crowd is into it. The students are nervous and some teams shine while others find the work they've done doesn't result in a tractor that can pull - whether it's driveline issues or some other factor that keeps them from even starting to move the heavy sled down the track.

Knowing the work students invest in this competition and how much time they spend on the tractors themselves, you can almost feel the disappointment fill the arena during competition. It's not an easy thing to watch, but you know every team is giving its "all" for the competition.

There were some long pulls but the University of Illinois had two great hooks. The first was for 199.23 feet; while it's second pull was 228.37 feet. Those long pulls bring plenty of excitement - just like any tractor pull - as the machine keeps working down the track even as the sled does it's best to bear down on the hitch and grind the tractor to a halt.

Competitors can watch student machines pull down the track. This tractor - from Friday's X-Team Pull works hard to get some distance even as the sled works hard to stop its progress. The digital readout gives the crowd an idea of just how the machine is doing.

As the digital numbers rise the excitement builds in the crowd too. The cheering ramps up as the machine nears the magic 200-foot distance and as it passes the roar is loud. As they say: A good time is had by all.

While I've said here that the pull itself is just one small part of this competition - the design, tech and marketing reviews are also very important - you know where the visceral connection is for students. It's putting the pedal to the metal on a machine you've crafted with team mates. It's the culmination of a lot of work.

Today - Sunday - is final pull day for the 21 teams competing. We're in the 1,550-pound class. And we can see some great pulls. Once completed the final work begins on the statistics and the team of volunteers - all ag engineers and many who are former competitors - wraps up the competition.

I'll report the winners of the competition here - hopefully by Monday morning - to let you know how the schools ranked.

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