Resource Magazine — July/August 2013
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UNL Student Tours Europe with CLAAS
Sue Mitrovich

Last January, thirty students from across the United States were awarded CLAAS of America sponsorships to attend the Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference (AETC) held in conjunction with the Ag Connect Expo in Kansas City, Mo. The student attendees were selected based on a number of qualifications, including essay responses to the question, “What do you feel has been the greatest contribution CLAAS has made to the world agricultural industry?” Based on his winning essay, Dylan Smith was also chosen to receive an all-expense- paid trip to Germany.

The son of an Eddyville, Neb., farmer, Smith is an agricultural engineering senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an active ASABE student member. “The student branch at UNL gets together monthly,” Smith said, “and the meeting agenda is usually full—from the 1/4-scale tractor competition to chapter trips, as well as the fundraising necessary to make these things happen, which includes everything from lawnmower clinics to concession stands. Being an ASABE student member makes for a great study break, provides involvement with peers and friends, and membership looks good on a resume, too!”

Smith learned about the AETC/Ag Connect sponsorships at an ASABE student meeting. “The Kansas City trip was terrific,” he said. “Among other things, I got to sit in on Standards meetings, and I was wowed by seeing the ASABE professionals at work.”

About a month after his Kansas City adventure, Smith learned that he had been selected to travel to Germany with CLAAS over spring break in March. Somewhat overwhelmed but very excited, he immediately applied for a passport. “I had never been to Europe, let alone out of the country,” he said, “but I was more than eager to learn about European agriculture.”

Working as a ranch hand during summers in high school and college, Smith learned to manage irrigation systems, and he acquired a broad background in machinery maintenance and operation. His employer hired a custom business that used Jaguar forage harvesters—the subject of his essay was the silage foragers’ efficiency and ease of handling, and Smith was excited to travel abroad and see more of the CLAAS product lineup.

After some initial culture shock, Smith took a liking to the local color, food, and hearty German beers. Although the trip focused on CLAAS facilities, his European tour also included sightseeing trips to Amsterdam and Berlin. Smith was impressed with the efficiency and work ethic of the employees at CLAAS headquarters in Harsewinkel. “The organization of their manufacturing facilities was top-notch,” he said. “The checks and balances, once the machine is put together, are pretty amazing.” He found time to pursue his interests in machinery by test-driving CLAAS Xerion and Arion tractors at the CLAAS test farm.

Smith is now two months into a CLAAS internship/coop experience working with test machinery. “It’s new, top-secret stuff,” he said with a grin. “I’m chasing harvesters for six months all around the county! And this experience is solidifying what I think I want as a career in agricultural engineering. It’s better than the classroom at this point. I can see if I’m right about my life goals and put my education into action.”

During the school year, Smith worked at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab under the supervision of his adviser, Lab Director and ASABE member Roger Hoy. Smith can expound on drawbar pull, PTO tests, and—with great enthusiasm— the Plug Fest on UNL’s East Campus. “The Plug Fest gives machinery and implement companies an occasion to get together and collaborate,” Smith said. “This year, I built some of the equipment for the event. It was very ‘mechanically rewarding’ to see my work in action!”

“As an undergrad, I’ve been blessed with opportunities beyond my imagination, and the possibilities within my field are endless,” Smith said. “I may work for a while after graduation— maybe for CLAAS, who knows?—or maybe pursue grad school. The options in ag engineering are bright.” After completing his internship and three more semesters on the UNL campus, Smith will graduate with his BS in May 2015.