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K-State Quarter-Scale Tractor Team Takes Second at International Competition


By Grant Guggisberg, K-State News


MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Kansas State University Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team took second place out of 21 teams at the 27th annual American Society of Agricultural and Biological EngineersInternational Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition.

The event — held May 30-June 2 at the Expo Gardens Fairgrounds in Peoria, Illinois — challenges teams to design and build a quarter-scale tractor capable of handling three performance events, including a durability course, a maneuverability course and three tractor pulls.

The teams also present a written design report and give an oral presentation to judges as part of the competition. K-State’s team took second place in both of these elements to bolster its overall score.

The competition was especially tight this year, with just seven points separating the top five teams. North Carolina State University won the event and South Dakota State University, the defending champion, took third.

Ryan Zecha, biological and agricultural engineering alumni and one of the team’s advisors, said this year’s team learned from the adversity last year’s team faced, when multiple parts of the tractor had to be repaired and refabricated on the fly while the team was in Illinois for the competition.

“The team was very focused on getting a rough prototype into the dyno test cell as soon as possible,” Zecha said. “They also built a driving prototype that was evaluated with test pulls and laps on the durability test course. The final version also saw some testing on the track before leaving for the competition, which led to a very robust tractor with minimal work required on-site.”

Members of the Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team include:

Jeb Carlson, junior in mechanical engineering, and Joseph Kueker, junior in biological systems engineering, both from Hesston; William Delzeit, sophomore in mechanical engineering, Lenexa; Sam Underwood, senior in electrical engineering, Mankato; Taylor Schroeder, junior in biological systems engineering, Riley; and Braden Bramhall, sophomore in mechanical engineering, Vermillion.

From out of state: Gentry Duncan, freshman in biological systems engineering, Centertown, Missouri; Micah Shonkwiler, sophomore in biological systems engineering, St. Joseph, Missouri; and Aubrey Paulk, junior in biological systems engineering, Charlotte, Tennessee.

This year’s team doesn’t have any departing seniors from its leadership ranks, which should allow the team to build on its progress this year.

“We lost a year of recruitment due to COVID, and the gap finally hit us,” Zecha said. “The juniors that stepped up and took on the leadership roles did a fantastic job. They’re coming back in the same roles for their senior year, and I am very excited to see what they’re capable of after this.”

Next year’s competition will bring several changes, most notably a shift away from the current carbureted engine with a horizontal crankshaft to a new fuel-injected engine with a vertical crankshaft. Zecha said that will be a challenge for the team to overcome, since the rules committee is not increasing the tractor weight limit.

The team is starting to fundraise for the purchase of new equipment that will aid in this transition. Donations to the team may be made through the Kansas State University Foundation.