Getting it done

With perseverance and help from an alum, the quarter-scale tractor team succeeds at international competition.

“We put the tractor in reverse and heard a ‘pop.’ Everybody’s hearts and jaws dropped.”

Payton Renner, president of K-State’s Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team, described how this year’s competition almost ended before it even began. The team had completed some practice laps of the durability course, making sure its tractor’s steering and suspension were good.

The team only needed to weld one last thing, and that’s when disaster struck — the main power shaft in the tractor’s transmission snapped in two.

“We decided we didn’t come all this way to quit now,” Renner said. “So we scrambled.”

Using a barbecue grill to heat up the shaft, the team mended it well enough to compete in the durability competition the following morning. Despite having to keep the tractor in first gear, the team tied for second.

But they would need to fix the shaft correctly so they could use both first and second gear during the pulling events.

It plays in Peoria

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ International ¼ Scale Tractor Student Design Competition was in Peoria, Illinois. Luckily for the K-State team, Chuck Kuhn lived nearby.

“I have a machine shop at home and build engines as a hobby,” said Kuhn, a 1967 K-State graduate in mechanical engineering. “I told Ed, one of the team advisors, that if the team ever needed any light machine work, to give me a call.”

And Kuhn got that call.

A team member raced to Chicago to get the necessary materials, then the team headed to Kuhn’s shop to fix the shaft. After two long and nerve-wracking nights, the team once again had a fully functional tractor.

K-State took second place out of 22 teams.

“Every competition has its challenges, but for most teams, this type of setback would keep them from finishing the competition at all, much less taking second place,” said Ed Brokesh, advisor for the team and assistant professor for biological and agricultural engineering. “This level of resolve is part of why K-State has been so successful in this event over the years.”

And Kuhn was proud he could be part of the team’s success.

“I always figured if they broke something, I could help,” Kuhn said. “I’m impressed with the team members’ perseverance. They are a link back to K-State for me, and I’m happy to be connected to them.”

This article was previously published here.

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Jenna Brown Senior Director of Development - Engineering