Students ‘get real engineering experience’ through tractor pull club

Cyclone Power Pullers is a group of ISU students that work toward making a tractor to pull weight at national competitions. Dan Killpack, senior in agricultural engineering, is one of the students that will travel to Perioa, Ill., on May 29.

Devon Jefferson

The Cyclone Powers Pullers club has given Jason Herbers a lot of experience for his future career in agricultural engineering.

Herbers, senior in agricultural engineering, is currently preparing his team and quarter-scale tractor pull prototype for the national competition May 29 in Peoria, Ill.

“This is a way to further develop engineering students and give them practical experience for their careers and for the future,” Herbers said.

Herbers grew up New Vienna, Iowa, a rural town in the eastern part of the state. There were 87 kids in his high school graduating class.

He said that he has been around agriculture most of his life.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and I got up early before school in high school to do chores, and I think that benefited me because it gave me my work ethic,” Herbers said.

When Herbers came to Iowa State, he was not sure about what he wanted to study. He started in the pre-veterinary program, moved to engineering and finally landed in agricultural engineering. He said he later found his niche within the Cyclone Power Pullers Club.

Herbers said he thought about staying at home and taking over his parents farm, but his dad really encouraged him to get an education.

Herbers was enjoying his math and science classes and decided he would combine those interests and skills with his interest for agriculture.

Herbers quickly began succeeding in coursework as well as gaining a genuine interest in agricultural and biosystems engineering. At around the same time, he joined the Cyclone Power Pullers club as a fun and productive extracurricular activity to help build his experience with drafting, design and manufacturing.

His family also grows crops, so Herbers grew up working with tractors. He felt that studying agricultural engineering would allow him to be in the other side of the industry. 

“When you drive a car or tractor, there is always something you feel that could be done better, so I decided I wanted to get in on the engineering side of things and make the machines,” Herbers said.

Three full years after his initial choice to be involved with the club, Jason is now the team leader and is preparing his team for the American Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers quarter-scale tractor build competition.

With the combined experience of veteran club members and a dedicated design team, the club had a fully functioning tractor prototype a month before competition, Herbers said.

The tractor has a hydrostatic transmission and is controlled by an LCD screen.

“Most schools use mechanical transmissions, so we are kind of taking it to another level using electronics and advanced technology to be more efficient in the manufacturing of our prototype,” Herbers said.

The team has very high hopes for the prototype, Herbers said. Even more so, Herbers has big ambitions for his career. His accomplishments with the Cyclone Power Pullers Club has helped land him his third internship with John Deere.

The team is expecting a high contest placement with the years prototype.

Sean Conrad, lead structures engineer for the team, said that the contribution Herber has made to the team was extremely valuable regarding the success of the prototype.

“I think it is a great opportunity for kids to get real engineering experience,” Conrad said. “The opportunity to work with a team, hold a responsibility, practice engineering principles and network with companies is a priceless experience that will prove beneficial when going into industry.”