ISU Students Have High Hopes For Innovative Tractor Design

May 30, 2017

Iowa State University’s Tractor Pull Club is competing in the International Quarter-Scale Student Tractor Design Competition this week. Students from mechanical, industrial, and agriculture and biosystems engineering build a small tractor, about the size of a ride-on lawn mower, that tries to outperform the others in tests of brute strength, durability and maneuverability.

This year 30 schools are sending teams to Peoria, Illinois and ISU’s club is hoping a winning innovation from last year will help it finish near the top.

“Electric's really the way to go,” says club president Matthew Streit, “if you're looking to get the most out of your power and your fuel and fuel economy and all of that.”

Streit says ISU’s electrical system for controlling the rear tires attracted a lot of interest from industry representatives and the engineers who judged the design. Streit says some version of it could eventually land in commercial tractors. Ultimately, though, the team placed sixth after its tractor was disqualified during the durability round.

They kept the technology in this year’s model but made other changes to improve the design’s chances on the durability test.

“This year with the electrical components, and driving through the sand pit last year, we said we want to protect the electrical components a little better,” Streit says. “So we made a v-trough frame which, well, it protects all of our components. We're going to have capacitors in there, all of our components, actuator for our front steering, which is also electrical.”

Matthew Streit (left) and Patrick Haight inspect the sheet-metal trough that will protect sensitive electronics from sand and other debris.
Credit Amy Mayer/IPR

The students designed the sheet metal trough for the tractor frame, which was manufactured for them by one of their lead sponsors. 

If they finish in the top five positions this year, they’ll bring home a cash prize. ISU’s top finish ever was second place in 1998, the first year the club participated.   

The club's 2016 model will compete again this year. When the 2017 edition is finished, it will be similarly adorned with sponsorship stickers.
Credit Amy Mayer/IPR