2023 ASABE International 1/4-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition

Congratulations to the Wildcat Pulling Team on their 22nd year participating in the ASABE International 1/4-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition. Thirteen students made the trip to Peoria, IL last week and competed with two separate tractors. They were joined by Brett Childers, Dan Workman, Mike Montross, and myself. Notable A-Team accomplishments include winning the 1100 lb weight class pull, placing first in the defense of design category, second place in overall design judging, and fifth place in the written design report. The X-Team placed third in the overall competition for development teams.

Each year brings a unique set of opportunities and challenges. Our team grew tremendously this year. We had a record number of freshman engineering students join the team, which led to entering an X-Team tractor for the first time in over 15 years. We also had a record number of institutional and corporate sponsors. CARERC and SCAHIP were new sponsors and provided financial support to purchase instrumentation and safety-related components. The students put those funds to good use by reporting sound pressure level measurements into the vehicle’s display to provide the operator with real-time warnings on the potential for hearing loss from sustained operation without proper PPE. The COE Young Alumni Philanthropy Council was also a major contributor, providing funds to supplement fabrication and travel costs for X-Team participation. Altec returned as a sponsor by laser cutting a portion of the steel sheet metal components. The CAFE Office of Philanthropy & Alumni once again provided financial support to the team in exchange for parking cars at home football games. Last, but certainly not least, the Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department provided substantial personnel, travel, and administrative support.

Several of our team members put in an incredible amount of time into designing and fabricating the Wildcat 3123 and ensuring that we were able to compete as best as possible. Mason Bradley completed his second competition as team captain and was responsible for the majority of the design work. Mason, along with Karla Ladino, Brett, Dan, Ben Wilmoth, and I spent the last 2-1/2 weeks of May working double shifts in the BAE shop to complete the fabrication and final assembly. Several additional students, including Lilly Kirby and Will Faulkner participated in various aspects of the build. Donnie Stamper once again generously provided his time to prep and paint parts.

This was probably the busiest our team has been at competition that I can remember. A bearing in the clutch failed about an hour before the official start of the competition and destroyed the driveshaft it was connected to. You may recall Brett’s heroic trip to Chicago to pick up spare driveline couplers from last year. Well, he and Dan managed to eclipse that by driving back to Lexington, machining new driveshafts, picking up spare bearings, and returning to Peoria all during the first day of competition. Had it not been for their tremendous dedication, we would have simply been observers for the entire competition. Breaking stuff was the theme this year as we subsequently broke our wheelie bar during technical inspection, overheated our steering motor controller during maneuverability (thanks to the 95°F weather), broke two steering drivers during the durability event, damaged the input reduction gears to our transmission during a practice pull, and finally completely destroyed the transmission towards the end of the second pull. Each setback was met with outstanding effort to repair before moving on to the next event. We needed every one of those thirteen students this year given all the work it entailed and the best part from my perspective was watching them work as a cohesive team under tremendous pressure. There’s no substitute for the real-world experience they gained.