Nope, this tractor is quarter-scale, stripped down for competition, and optimized to ride a one-inch wheelie down the 200-foot pulling track. In the Midwest United States and increasingly in the South, grownups have leagues where they compete on these things like it was bowling or softball.
“It’s cheaper than drag racing,” laughs Texas A&M University student Tyrell Love, a member of the school’s
Texas Aggie Pullers, who brought their competition tractor to SolidWorks World 2011. The team competes in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) quarter-scale tractor program, an earthier alternative to more celebrated Formula 1-style and hybrid car competitions.
“I first joined because it was a fun way to get involved and meet people,” says Derek Kovalcik, now a senior. Soon, he dug into the activity and learned the design, manufacturing, problem-solving, and sourcing aspects that prepare a student for a career. Since the Aggie Pullers dream of getting the tractor into commercial production, there’s even a customer service angle.
The most dramatic part of the ASABE tractor competition is the pull down a 200-foot track. Longest distance wins. Torque and speed are both important. The tractor does 8 or 9 mph now, but the team hopes to improve the speed to 33 mph in the 2011 design. In addition to length of pull, judging figures in the less glamorous aspects of product development, including maneuverability, sound (quieter is better), safety, serviceability, manufacturability and ergonomics.
“You get a little peek into the world of designers and engineers and why they do what they do,” says Kovalcik. The tractor is modeled entirely in SolidWorks, including the Briggs & Stratton engine. “It’s really
user friendly,” he says of the software, “and you can do so much more with it, like the simulation.”
The world of designers and engineers includes unforeseen circumstances not entirely unlike the ones the Apollo 13 luminaries spoke of in general session. For instance, the tractor frame once broke while in transport after the trailer rumbled over a rough road. It was just more practice overcoming adversity, and something the team wishes they'd simulated before the fact.
The Aggie Pullers are diverse and involve a wide range of majors, including petroleum engineering. And it’s not all guys. Aggie Puller Elizabeth Marley, a senior, is an example. “I’m used to being the only girl,” she says. And she’s used to doing hard work. She grew up in Roswell, N.M., on a farm producing corn, barley, alfalfa, cotton and sheep. She manages the irrigation system back home, and, yes, drives the tractor.
“I love playing with power tools,” she says. “My teammates taught me how to weld the other day. It was great.”