Brian Huenink 2015-10-29 01:41:08
1/4 scale needs you, and you need 1/4 scale Before I joined the 1/4 Scale team during my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, my experiences with fabrication in a shop were mostly with a hammer, grinder, and stick welder. Don’t get me wrong, I could fix anything on the farm, but I never built anything from scratch. On the 1/4 Scale team, I got hands-on experience running a milling machine, lathe, press, cut-off tools, press-brake, shear, MIG and TIG welders, tube benders, and much more. The 1/4 Scale project also gave me experience in practical engineering skills, like modeling parts, finite element analysis, cost and project management, and fund raising. In my current job at John Deere, I still rely on what I learned in 1/4 Scale to help me understand the complete picture and design things that will work in real life. Learning by doing To stay on schedule leading up to the 1/4 Scale competition, my team had to make decisions fast and frequently. There were often three or four “right” answers, but time and cost constraints required us to build consensus among the team and then move on. This ability to weigh options, make a decision, and stay on schedule is valuable in the workplace, and it’s needed throughout the 1/4 Scale design process. The competition won’t be delayed if your team isn’t ready; you have to meet the deadline. When we presented our tractor at the competition, I thought I understood the judging process as well as the judges did. I didn’t appreciate it the time, but they were a lot nicer in their critique than I realized. Nevertheless, it can hurt to hear someone declare that the product of your hard work, pride, and joy is not up to their full expectations. That was a great lesson in humility! Looking back, it’s easy to see opportunities for improvement, but in the heat of the battle, they aren’t always so clear. That’s where a network of knowledgeable people is valuable. You learn to rely on trusted mentors and other experts who can provide candid feedback on your ideas. Building a network as well as a tractor In fact, participation in 1/4 Scale is as much about building those relationships as it is about hands-on learning. For me, 1/4 Scale was a springboard for my involvement in ASABE—volunteering for whatever I could, attending meetings, and trying to soak up all the tech sessions. My first trip to the Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference (AETC) in Louisville was to display UW-Madison’s 1/4 Scale tractor. That was all it took to get me hooked on the Society, its members, and AETC specifically. Since then, I’ve only missed only a couple of AETCs. I also have fond memories of carpooling to other ASABE meetings over the years. My team took our 1/4 Scale tractor to the 1999 Annual International Meeting (AIM) in Toronto. We traveled with an unassuming PhD student and now former ASABE president Terry Howell, who never expected the experience our team provided! When I lived in Iowa, I traveled to Iowa Section meetings with a group of John Deere colleagues— and former ASABE president Tony Kajewski’s seemingly limitless supply of homemade beef jerky! At the 2000 AIM in Milwaukee, I volunteered to work in the book room (yes, back when there were books and meeting papers that needed to be distributed). My plan was to save some money on the registration fee, but I ended up with much more. I was assigned to work with Jill Grodecki, who was also a student at UW Madison, although we hadn’t met before. Jill and I hit it off, we started dating when we returned to Madison, and three years later she became Jill Huenink! Enduring value Student design competitions give you a place to test your ideas, exercise your classroom knowledge, and learn in a safe environment. It’s okay to fail, and fail often, as long as you pick up the pieces, understand where you went wrong, and plan how you can improve. If you’re on the fence about participating in 1/4 Scale, my advice is to dive in and stick with it. It will be difficult, and you will want to give up. But stay the course, because the reward is always great—even if your team doesn’t take home the trophy. From time to time, I interview candidates for hire at John Deere. One of the first things I look for is experience with 1/4 Scale or an equivalent competition in the candidate’s field. That kind of experience shows the candidate’s willingness to be challenged, to figure things out, and to persevere through failure. That experience helps a candidate stand out in the hiring process, and new hires can draw on that experience in the workplace. Real-world engineering experiences are out there, so take advantage by participating in a design competition like 1/4 Scale. Sign up and enjoy the ride, because it will take you somewhere good! ASABE member Brian Huenink, Staff Engineer, John Deere Product Engineering Center, Waterloo, Iowa, USA, HueninkBrianM@JohnDeere.com. About the Author For the last 12 years, Brian Huenink has been a design engineer at the John Deere Product Engineering Center in Waterloo, Iowa, working on the 5000 to 9000 Series tractors. He served on the team that redesigned the 7R tractor for the 2011 model year and received a John Deere Innovation Award for his work on that program. He continued working on the 7R and 9R programs to provide new exhaust systems to meet Final Tier 4 emissions requirements. He is currently on the team responsible for future updates to the 8R program. Huenink graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an agricultural engineering BS in 2000 and MS in 2003. Four years ago, he began a new adventure by becoming a full partner on his family’s dairy and certified seed farm in Wisconsin. He continues his work for John Deere as a telecommuter. He has been involved with ASABE’s 1/4 Scale Tractor Design Competition since it started in 1998, first as a student and later as student member of the organizing committee. Upon graduation, he volunteered as a full committee member, having progressed through most of the officer positions. Huenink notes that 1/4 Scale is unique among student engineering competitions because it provides a realistic design and manufacturing experience. Each student team is provided with a 31 hp Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires. After that, the design is up to them. At the competition site, industry experts judge each design for its innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, maneuverability, safety, sound level, and ergonomics. The teams also submit a written report in advance of the competition, and they must sell their design in a live presentation to industry experts who play the role of a corporate management team. Finally, the machines are put to the test in three tractor pulls and a maneuverability course. As Huenink explains, through involvement in the competition, students gain practical experience in design and manufacturing processes, as well as analysis of tractive forces, weight transfer, strength of materials, and other engineering concepts. They also develop skills in communication, leadership, teamwork, and fund raising. For more information about the 1/4 Scale Tractor Design Competition, contact Mark Crossley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the ASABE website (www.asabe.org/membership/preprofessionals-students/14- scale-comp.aspx).
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