June 28, 2023

Student engineering team wins competition


Bison Pullers tractor
An NDSU team of engineering students earned first place in a tractor design competition in Peoria, Illinois.

The NDSU Bison Pullers earned first place in the durability category during the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition in Peoria, Illinois. The team also earned third place in overall performance across all events.

Team members are Evan Oberg, Robert Stephany, Michael Ritchie, Nathan Schilling, Lawson Kraft, Emma Arstein, Brandon Kasper and Nicholas Kuhlmann.

This year’s participants came from across the United States and Canada. Sponsored by ASABE, the quarter-scale tractor contest is unique among student engineering-design events, providing a realistic 360-degree workplace experience. It is a popular recruiting event for many sponsors, who find practiced, high-achieving prospects with strong technical, communication and leadership skills honed by competition experience.

The 2023 contest was held June 1-5 at the Peoria Expo Gardens. The contest is a longtime tradition, with NDSU competing for about the past 24 years.

The Bison Pullers, which is an ASABE-sanctioned quarter-scale pulling tractor organization on the NDSU campus, competes each year in the event.

The organization’s goal is for juniors and seniors to design, construct and compete with a quarter-scale tractor for the A-team competition. The X team of freshmen and sophomores can bring back the tractor from the previous year with 20% updates/modification.

Other typical activities include fundraising for support from outside sources, public service, promotion of ASABE, presentation of the quarter-scale tractor at campus functions and more.

But it’s the quarter-scale tractor build that draws the attention.

Teams of students are provided with a 31-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires. The design of their tractor is up to them. Industry experts then judge each design for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, safety, sound level and ergonomics. Teams also submit a written design report, and they sell their design in a formal presentation to industry experts playing the role of a corporate management team. Finally, machines are put to the test in three performance events – three tractor pulls, a maneuverability course and a durability course.

The durability course is a timed event through an oval course of bumps and loose soil while towing a weighted cart. Teams compete in the timed event by individually completing a quantity of laps in rough conditions, loose soil conditions and flat dirt.

“First, you get to know the older students on a personal basis, which is always beneficial,” said Matt Olhoft, the group’s advisor. “And it’s a way for them to practice those skills they’re learning in the classroom. … When you do a whole project from start to finish, you learn a lot. They get to practice engineering skills. They use a CAD program to design the whole tractor and they also conduct a stress analysis of the different parts of the tractor to look for any kind of failure points before they actually make the tractor.”

Fabrication skills also are involved, shaping the steel and welding it together.

The Bison Pullers club members are highly employable, Olhoft said.

Alumni working at agricultural manufacturing facilities who participated when they were students understand the devotion given and experience gained for the Bison Pullers.

“Those former alumni can really appreciate those current students who are doing this. It is a big deal when they apply for jobs and they have that on their resume and their future employer recognizes that. It does move them to the top of the list,” Olhoft said.

Sulaymon Eshkabilov and Brian Gregor also are advisors for Bison Pullers.

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