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Scenes from a student tractor pull

The 2014 International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition drew a big group of teams that challenged ag engineers, and more, to meet real-world challenges.

This gallery offers you a glimpse of a complex student design competition put on by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers since 1998. The just completed 17th year, was one of the biggest with 29 schools on hand, and 27 that competed in the new-tractor A-Team event.

What we show here is actually the culmination of nearly a year's worth of work where student engineers start with design rules the previous fall and begin the process of designing and building a new tractor. The process is involved. Rules require students to conduct real-world tests on their designs, including finite element analysis where stresses on a chassis or critical part are measured in the computer before touching real steel, or aluminum.

They've also got to create a written design report detailing their work, costs and other factors. The written report is then reviewed by a team of engineers who look over the details of the machine and judge students on the quality of information they present.

This gallery represents the culmination of the work. This is a four-day final competition in Peoria, Ill., where the final student-designed tractors are brought in for inspection. The tractors are given a thorough design review for safety, manufacturability, serviceability, ergonomics and test and development work. They machines also take on a very tricky maneuverability challenge, where many simply fail. And of course, all tractors have to clear tech inspection where not only must they hit base weight - 800 pounds or less - but also have their brakes, engines, stop/start capabilities and more checked out organizers.

In addition, students must prepare a team presentation to be given on site to a mock corporate committee made up of engineers and "marketing" folks who look at the information provided and "consider" the viability of going on with the product for the market identified. It's a real-world challenge that teaches students a wide range of skills. Full disclosure, the authors is a judge in the competition.

The culmination of the event is of course the tractor pull. This is where all that design, analysis and engineering work are really put to the test. This year every tractor that cleared tech pulled all four hooks in the pull competition. One team was unable to clear tech due to some key design difficulties, but they pulled all four times as a demonstration, which was impressive for a first-time team.

Last year we showed you the competition in a gallery, this year we dig in a little more and hopefully offer insight into how this event works. So check out the images that follow for a look at this year's event on-the-ground in Peoria. The weather was nice (oh there was the short obligatory shower to dampen team trailer and prep areas in the pits), and the competition was stiff, but a good time was had by all.

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