Imagine getting the assignment to design, build and test a new tractor from a clean sheet of paper? Then you'll take that tractor to a competition with a host of other student engineers. The aim: to help students turn "book learning" into real world knowledge.
That's the aim of the International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition (IQS) conducted by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) each year. The event just wrapped up its 17th competition with 27 schools on hand from covering North American geography with four teams coming from Canada.
This year's overall winner was the University of Kentucky (UK).
The competition starts in the fall of the previous year when students learn the new rules for the competition. From then on they are charged with building a tractor from scratch. They have to use either two 16-hp Briggs & Stratton engines or a single 31-hp Briggs & Stratton engine. The Wisconsin engine maker has been a sponsor since the competition started, providing engines to teams. And students must use a specific set of rear tires as well. The rules are detailed and in-depth, and woe be the team that doesn't read that manual before competition.
For the engineering "geeks" among Farm Industry News readers, this event is a lot of fun for the students, but there's a significant share of work as well. Often the final touches are being put on the tractors as they're about to roll into tech inspection where tractors undergo a significant series of tests from brakes to engine rpm.
Last year we shared a gallery from the 2013 competition  showing some of those tech'ing details. It's a gauntlet every machine must pass through.
Students must prepare a written design report - judged by engineers. They must also put their tractors through a series of design inspections for safety, manufacturability, test and development, ergonomics and serviceability. The team must also make a live presentation to a group of judges who act as if they're on a company panel reviewing a decision to move forward with a real-world product (the author is a judge in the competition).
Finally, the tractors compete in a pull with four hooks in two weight categories - 1,000-lbs. and 1,500- lbs. Base weight of the tractor cannot exceed 800-lbs.
UK won three of the four pulls, and took overall honors in the tractor pull. The team also won the manufacturability award (truly engineer speak for a design that's ready to put into an assembly line and build). UK also won for its written design report and took second place for the team presentation. A solid showing across the board.
The top five overall winners included:
1 - University of Kentucky
2 - Kansas State University (they were the 2013 winner)
3 - Ohio State University
4 - Iowa State University - which also won the most-improved award moving up 18 positions from their 22nd place finish in 2013.
5 - Purdue University.