Practical experience is a hot ticket in today's competitive job world, but where is a hard-working student steeped in books, tests and studying supposed to get some real-world expertise? Professional associations have been working to offer that opportunity and we got an inside look at an event put together by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
The organization calls the event the International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition and for 2013 it brought together 29 schools who had spent the last nine months designing, testing and building a tractor. Culmination of that work is four intense days in at Expo Gardens in Peoria, Ill., where those newly built tractors go through tech inspection, then a series of design inspections, a maneuverability test and finally, the machines compete in a tractor pull.
We've pulled together a gallery from that recent weekend to give you an idea of what the students go through when they get to Expo Gardens. The North American teams - which included teams from Canada as well - may be competing but they also work together sometimes sharing tools or the occasional part.
The tractors themselves are quite varied in their designs ranging from two-wheel-drive "sled-type" machines to mechanical front-drive machines with operators working out front. The student engineers also incorporate electronic systems for monitoring their machines on-the-go, or controlling key systems like steering. There was even one machine with a tablet interface the driver could use as the machine competed in the pull.
The pull is the high-point for students, but the many tests along the way and the written and oral presentations are also a big part of the real-world experience. It's possible to win the pulls but not win the competition - as happened this year with University of Kentucky winning three of the four hooks but the top award going to Kansas State University.
A lot of work goes into this competition - and this gallery can only show you the hardware portion of the program. The written design report detailing how the tractor was designed, tested and built is important. And the oral presentation where students do a mock marketing presentation to a group of engineers and marketers explaining why the "company" should build the machine is important experience too.
Step through the gallery to learn more about the competition, the tractors and the long-supporting sponsors from the 16th year of the completion. Full disclosure: The author worked as a judge in this year's competition, and also called the pull and even emceed the dinner (volunteers work hard at this event!).
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