Bison Pullers

The 2016 Bison Puller’s quarter scale tractor completes the brake stand test, one of the most challenging parts of the technical inspection process.

FARGO, N.D. – A student group at North Dakota State University is recruiting new members for the quarter-scale tractor club, “Bison Pullers.”

This undergraduate collegiate group designs and builds a quarter-scale pulling tractor for an international collegiate competition sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). The next event will be held May 31-June 3, 2018 in Peoria, Ill.

Approximately 25 colleges across North America and Israel participated in the 2017 competition, which was the organization’s 20th competition.

Teams from each college are given a 31 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires. The design of each tractor is up to the students, said club advisor Tom Bon, Ph.D., NDSU associate professor of practice in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

Students begin by talking about what kind of design and drive train system they want to use, and they start to produce drawings for manufacturing some of the tractor parts.

After the new year, the club decides on a major game plan.

“Hopefully about February, they will be working with some of the companies that help out and sponsor them to get the parts made up,” Bon said. “In March and April, (they) start putting things together, and hopefully maybe able to practice a little bit with the tractor and do some dry runs.”

The tractor is disassembled for painting and then reassembled for the contest.

Things don’t always go easy.

“There have been times when we have been putting things together as we throw it on the trailer for the contest,” he said. “Those have not been the most joyful, a little intense. The last couple of years they have been pretty good on it, and it makes things a lot calmer.”

The competition is serious, according to the ASABE website.

A team of industry experts judge each design for innovation, manufacturability, serviceability, safety, sound level and ergonomics.

Teams also submit a written design report ahead of the competition, and during the competition they are expected to make an oral presentation “selling” their design based on its merits.

The tractors are driven by the students, and each machine competes in three tractor pulls, a maneuverability course and a durability course.

In the 2016 ASABE quarter scale tractor competition, North Dakota State University placed first in durability over 27 teams, and seventh overall. Then in 2017, South Dakota State University finished second overall, behind Purdue University, which was quite an accomplishment.

“The big thing is the students get the experience and also get to see some of the other things going on and what the competition is,” said Bon.

The current president of Bison Pullers is Brody Williams, a senior at NDSU studying agricultural engineering. He attended a meeting his freshman year and has been active in the club since.

Freshmen and sophomores start with easier, but still crucial tasks to build the tractor. Juniors and seniors do a lot of the work of building the tractor, Williams said.

The club also participates in the homecoming parade and activities at Big Iron. Club members coordinate tractor logistics with sponsors who may want to display the tractor at company events.

After graduating from NDSU, Williams hopes to work as an engineer within the farm machinery field. Through Bison Pullers, he’s learned more about companies like John Deere, CNH and AGCO because of their sponsorships through ASABE.

Bon added that students don’t have to be engineering majors to join the Bison Pullers, and it is open to all NDSU students in good standing. Students involved in ag economics or business majors are welcome to join to assist with fund raising and marketing, and the club can always use students with mechanical aptitude.

For more information on the Bison Pullers, please call Tom Bon, Ph.D. at 701-231-7275, or Julie Bietz, student services coordinator at 710-231-7273. On the web, search for Bison Pullers to learn more.

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