May 12, 2004

SIUC students preparing for annual competition

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Right now, it doesn't even look much like a tractor, but the Southern Illinois University Carbondale "aggies" who are cobbling it together from spare parts say it will be ready to show what it's made of in next month's American Society of Agricultural Engineers' quarter-scale tractor pull in Moline.

"Last year, we finished our tractor when we got to Moline," said John R. Klemm, a Waynesville junior in agricultural systems technology.

"And really, there's not as much to do as you might think. Fix the shaft and put the rear end back together, and it's ready to go."

"The objective is to show what we've learned -- the way we design the drivetrain and use the power we get from the engine is what this competition is about," Klemm said. "There's a written report, a presentation -- sort of a mock sales pitch where we're marketing this tractor. The pull is just for fun."The tractor pull, an annual event since 1998, is part of a larger design contest aimed at teaching students the hands-on basics of drivetrain systems, performance, manufacturing, traction, weight transfer and materials strength. The society gives each team a 16-horsepower Briggs & Stratton V-Twin lawnmower engine; the students design, manufacture or modify, and assemble everything else.

This year's entry uses axles from a military jeep, auger gearboxes, a lawnmower transmission and may have a little something extra going for it: electric clutches that -- they hope -- will allow the driver to shift gears as he goes down the track.

"That will allow us to get more power out of our engine and keep traction," Klemm said. "I don't know for sure that it's going to work, but if it doesn't we will just pick a gear."

Come June 2, the team will load the tractor, some toolboxes and extra wheels into a stripped-out horse trailer for the drive up to Moline. The competition takes place June 3-6 at Quad City Downs.

This will be Klemm's third pull, and he'd like his team to win, though clearly he's not in it for the prize -- he thought the top finishers might get tires, when in fact, they win trophies. No, it's not the prize he's after. "It's the pride," he said.

Klemm is the son of Robert E. and Patricia J Klemm of rural Waynesville. Others on the team include sophomore Stephanie M. Kuropas, daughter of Hanover Park residents Michael N. and Diana L. Kuropas (4700 Zeppelin Drive) and sophomore Chris L. Schwarz, son of Highland residents Chris J. and Emily R. Schwarz.

Engaging students in broad learning opportunities is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.