The practice of turning what's learned in the classroom into real-world knowledge isn't easy, but increasingly college students have the ability to compete in industry-sponsored contests that help. For ag engineers, a long-time contest has challenged the best to compete with a student-built tractor.

The program is called the International Quarter Scale Tractor Student Design Competition –or IQS for short— and it's aimed at providing students with real-world experience they can put to use after graduation. The program, now in its 17th year, starts the previous year with release of tractor design rules and culminates with a four-day event in Peoria, Ill.

To compete successfully, students design and build a tractor. Key parts of that experience include creating an in-depth written design report that's judged by industry engineers; they also build a tractor that gets a thorough technical inspection and design review during the Peoria event. The design review considers a range of areas including safety, ergonomics, manufacturability, serviceability and test and development. Students must also make an oral presentation to a mock corporate review panel, made up of real-world engineers and a representative from sales/marketing (the author is a judge in the competition).

For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.


And the crowning glory of the competition is a tractor pull where the student-built machines complete four hooks, two in the 1,000-pound class and two in the 1,500-pound class. While a lot of work goes into getting the tractor to the pull, the students' eyes are on that sled almost from the beginning.

Texas A&M and Oklahoma State University are both long-time competitors in the program. Texas A&M took part in the first competition in 1998. And Oklahoma State has been involved for 15 years. A third school - Lamar University - took part in the event for the second year in 2014, though the team's tractor wasn't able to compete in the final tractor pull.