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Technion’s TracTech takes top prizes at tractor faceoff

Israeli team showed extreme ‘professionalism and originality’ with its quarter-scale farm vehicle, said judges in Illinois

The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015 (Courtesy)
The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015 (Courtesy)

A Technion team that built a better tractor has won first place in two categories of the International Quarter-Scale (IQS) Tractor Student Design Competition, the world’s biggest engineering and design contest for farm vehicles.

Participants in the contest have to build a working quarter-scale machine. Said the judges of the Technion team: “Never has a team in its first appearance in the competition shown such professionalism and originality.”

The team’s vehicle, the TracTech, was designed by students at the Techion who study under Professor Itzhak Shmulevich of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Technion team – the first Israeli team to participate in the competition since its inception 18 years ago – won first place in the platform testing and development category and the quiet platform for environmental conditions category.

The contest is sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and was established to encourage more engineering students to seek careers as agricultural engineers – an area that industry giants like Caterpillar and John Deere, the top makers of tractors and farm equipment, were having trouble recruiting candidates for. Today, excellence in the competition is seen as a prerequisite for a job in the industry and a ticket to a top job.

The contest was held in Batavia, Illinois, and the final decision was rendered over the weekend.

Vehicles produced within the framework of competition are intended for small agricultural farms and, therefore, must combine the speed and comfort of an all-terrain vehicle with the advantages of a tractor, including resistance to mud and rough terrain and good control at slow speeds.

According to the judges, the TracTech fulfilled both requirements quite well. Teams needed to demonstrate their platform’s motor abilities of drag resistance and durability on a tough obstacle course, working with numerous constraints (using only commonly available fuel and standard, easily replaced tires, for example). In addition, the teams had to show that their platform made sense economically and could be built in accordance with market requirements and on the assumption that 3,000 units would be sold per year.

Work on the project began in November 2014, and involved many individuals and groups in the industry, said Shmulevich. “On the night of May 25, we flew to Illinois, where we had three days to complete the construction of the platform. Those were days of frenzied teamwork, which all the project participants undoubtedly remember as a special professional experience.”

Assisting the team were Eliasaf Becker, an auto mechanics instructor and the lab technician for machine and soil interaction at the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Helpful individuals at the school’s Center for Research in Agricultural Engineering, the Energy Program at the Technion, and the Institute of Agricultural Engineering, as well as Scania Israeli Ltd and Zoko Enterprises – Caterpillar Israel Ltd., also lent a hand.

“For me this is an extraordinary success,” said Shmulevich, who suggested to students that they develop the TracTech for the contest. “This is the first Israeli delegation in the history of the competition, and it is important to understand that we competed there with about 30 highly experienced teams, with far more significant support and budgeting. I hope that the successful outcome will lead to the formation of a new team to build another platform in preparation of next year’s competition.”

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