Cyclone Power Pullers celebrate 25 years, top placings at international 1/4 scale competition

Members of the Cyclone Power Pullers club stand next to the 2021 (left) and 2022 (right) tractors they built. This year marks the club's 25th year of participating in the ASABE International 1/4 Scale Tractor Student Design Competition.

By Riley Hiscocks

Safety, testing, tractor performance and maneuverability are just a few components the Iowa State University Cyclone Power Pullers club focuses on each year as they build their very own 1/4 scale tractor.

The 15 student members of the Power Pullers club each year design and build a 1/4 scale tractor for the ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers) International 1/4 Scale Tractor Student Design Competition, held annually in Peoria, Illinois. The competition consists of many events including a tractor pull, defense of design, team marketing and design and more. 

“We recently had our competition in the beginning of June where we walked away with fourth place overall,” said Cole Schafer, vice president of the Power Pullers and junior in agricultural engineering. “We won many individual events, such as high overall written design report, first place in durability, best overall appearance, safety award, best overall serviceability, test and development award and first place in design judging.”

This year’s tractor was special because it represents the 25th anniversary of the club’s involvement in the annual competition.

“With this being the case, we made sure this tractor represented Iowa State well with a cardinal and gold paint scheme and sheet metal to match an IH 1456 Gold Demonstrator,” Schafer said. 

Each year, the club is given a 31 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine and a set of Titan tires, but beyond that, the remaining design and build of the tractor is dependent upon the club’s creativity, skills and ability to work as a team. They need to adhere to a few design and safety restrictions, such as the weight of the tractor must be under 900 pounds.

The club gets a head start on designing their tractor prior to the beginning of each academic year, which allows for the fall months to be spent finalizing the design, as well as working on complicated machine components. In the spring, the club focuses on assembling the tractor and testing the design to prepare it for competition. 

Tristan Thier, president of the Power Pullers and junior in agricultural systems technology, said the club has had to adjust their timeline of events leading up to each year’s competition to ensure their tractor is designed and functioning to the best of its ability.

Two male students working on a 1/4 scale tractor painted red and gold.
Students work throughout the academic year to build each year's tractor, perfecting the design and preparing it for the annual competition.

“We pride ourselves on being one of the few teams that does almost all of our manufacturing and assembly in-house. Supply chain issues made the testing and development phase of our tractor build shorter than we would have liked this year, but we made up the difference by using virtual engineering utilizing MATLAB,” Thier said.

Consisting of a custom designed and built output coupled hydromechanical transmission, an advanced hydraulic and controls system, and improved operator comfort and experience, this year’s tractor was one of the most innovative tractors the club has built.

“We spend many hours in our shop perfecting designs and building our tractors, so seeing all of us work hard together to achieve our goals and watching it come to life is a really great feeling,” Schafer said. 

Not only do members of the club enjoy the feeling of success at competitions, they are also preparing themselves for their future careers while working on critical skills.

“Many employers look for students who participate in a club of our caliber as they understand and respect the hard work we put in and the skills we learn,” Thier said.

Matt Haas, member of the Power Pullers and senior in agricultural engineering, said the club has provided him with experience in the engineering field and allowed him to network with professionals in the industry.

“My favorite part about this club is the freedom and independence. It feels like a real company being run by students, and we all must work together so we stay afloat and continue the legacy of the Power Pullers at Iowa State University. Being involved in this club has been a great jump start into my career by continually working on my skills of teamwork, leadership, dedication and innovation,” Haas said. 

For Nick Sandeen, 2022 mechanical engineering graduate and former Power Pullers member, “being a member of the Power Pullers club has allowed me to learn about concepts and gain skills I would not have in classes alone. It also allowed me to obtain several internships and secure a full-time position as an embedded software engineer.”

Even though the club just wrapped up their competition for 2022, the club is already in the design process and has goals in mind for the 2023 competition, such as working on the control systems to ensure their tractor is the smoothest to operate. 

To learn more about the club, visit their website.