Resource Magazine September/October 2012 : Page 5

Editor’s note: Sarah Luther, a member of the University of Florida team, reflects on the 2012 International 1/4-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition, held in Peoria, Ill., May 31 to June 3. Although the University of Kentucky took top honors at the 15th annual competition —nearly sweeping the judging categories and collecting sixteen trophies for their efforts, Luther—as a good Florida Gator—proves that winning isn’t every thing. Through involvement in the competition, students gain practical experience in the design of drive train systems, tractor performance, and manufacturing processes. In addition, they develop skills in communication, leadership, teamwork, and fundraising. The competition is unique among student engineering-design contests in that it provides a realistic 360-degree workplace experience. Teams of students are given a 16 hp Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires. The design of their tractor is up to them. A panel of industry experts judges each design for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, maneu-verability, safety, sound level, and ergonomics. Teams also submit a writ-ten design report in advance of the competition, and they must sell their design in a formal, face-to-face presentation to the experts, who play the role of a corporate management team. Finally, the machines are put to the test in a performance demonstration comprised of four tractor pulls. Dear Editor, owner’s manual for our tractor, and we As a first year team, we had no clue were so impressed with how polished what we were getting into when we arrived some of the other teams’ designs were. in Peoria. We had scoured every bit of Later that day, the teams competed in information given to us and prepared as the maneuverability competition, but we best we could, but we couldn’t have fore-completely missed out because of our seen the challenges that awaited us. For brakes. Thankfully, though, by the end of example, we met the Saskatchewan team the day we had passed all of our tech in the parking lot, and as competition vet-inspections and had received our erans, they enlightened us about the tech dinosaur sticker. We got a sticker for each inspection process and warned us about tech inspection test we passed, and the the cone that’s used to check exhaust dinosaur signified final weigh in. I have safety. Good and much appreciated advice. never been so excited about receiving It seemed we were in for a number of stickers in my whole life! surprises that weekend. On Saturday, my team finally got to Right before we left for Illinois, Luther, center, and her UFL team members relax a little. We gave our design presen-pose with their tractor, the culmination of Florida had endured tropical storm many months of hard work. tation in the morning at a Caterpillar Beryl, and we had been stuck inside the facility and got to play around a bit with shop trying to paint with a leaky roof and rain blowing in all of the interactive exhibits on display. Later that afternoon, sideways through the doors. We spent most of the night of our we faced our first performance test: the tractor pulls. Our arrival (Wednesday) painting and fixing some of our clutch slipped in the first practice pull, but with the help of wiring—things that should have been done prior to arriving. Saskatchewan, we put some more pressure on the spring and Thursday brought rain and freezing temperatures—at least completed both of the lightweight pulls. it felt like freezing to us Floridians. The technical inspections Sunday, during the practice pull and first heavyweight pull, required us to fix a few more things, in addition to faulty wiring we busted both the original differential gear carrier and the only and inadequate brakes. Luckily, Saskatchewan’s electrical spare we brought with us. The University of Tennessee-Martin genius was there to help us. I spent the whole day fussing with helped us change out our carrier and even tore apart their spare our tractor. It seemed that about half the teams sailed through transaxle to let us borrow a bearing cup. Satisfied with our first-the tech inspections with flying colors. At least we know what year performance, we packed up our things and headed to lunch to expect next year! while the other teams finished their last pull. Thursday evening we met the Université Laval team and The competition was a huge learning experience and were bewildered that they had to cut so much off of their trac-quite stressful at times, but we had an absolute blast. I was tor to meet the weight requirement. They were all very nice, amazed to see how helpful everyone was, and I remain and we had a long chat about their team and their trip to the incredibly impressed with how sophisticated all of the teams’ competition. We were quite impressed by the efforts that tractors looked. We definitely learned that we need a lot more some of the teams make just to get to the competition. Our money and teammates to be competitive, as there are a lot of measly 18-hour drive was nothing compared to the 42-hour components to the competition. It is extremely challenging, drive by Cal Poly or the flights Laval had to take. but in a very good way. You can easily see how much heart Friday morning, we again spent hours fixing the tractor and soul the competition planning committee puts into coor-and were almost late to design judging. Our brakes couldn’t dinating all of the competition events. I don’t know how we hold up to the rigorous test at the competition, so we had to J. would have been able to compete without the help of so many B. Weld new automotive pads onto the old Cub Cadet plates. teams, who eventually just told us to “go into our trailer and Some of the Kansas guys had been walking around that morn-get whatever you need.” We can’t thank them enough, and we ing checking out the other tractors, and they were kind enough are so glad to have been able to meet so many outstanding to help us put the wheels back on our tractor and push it over teams. We are looking forward to next year’s competition and to the design judging barn, as our brakes were still unhooked. hope to move up in the ranks a bit, now that we know more Design judging made us realize how far behind we were com-about what’s expected! pared to the veteran teams. I never thought about making an Sarah Luther, © kanate/ RESOURCE September/October 2012 5

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