One, two, three... Ag students at Tennessee Tech capture three top awards in regional contests

Students at Tennessee Technological University are accustomed to finding themselves in the winner's circle at annual intercollegiate engineering competitions sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

In fact, the students have claimed top finishes in seven Mini-Baja competitions since 1985. But when the gearbox of their all-terrain vehicle fell apart early on in a four-hour endurance race last year, the students instead found themselves 13th in a field of 78 cars.

This weekend Tennessee Tech's team hopes to show what a difference a new gearbox and a year of determined engineering can have when the 1997 Mini-Baja Midwest Competition gets underway at Honda's Research and Development Center in Marysville, Ohio.

Seventy or more teams representing top engineering programs across the U.S. and Canada are expected for the competition, which challenges students to design, build and race all-terrain vehicles powered by standard eight horsepower Briggs & Stratton engines -- the type commonly found in riding lawnmowers. Simulating real-life engineering problems, the contest requires students to develop their cars in such a way that the vehicles could be mass produced in a run of 4,000 at a per-unit cost of less than $2,500.

Tennessee Tech team captain Brandon Palmer, a mechanical engineering senior from Lebanon, says his university's car will feature not only a refined gearbox but a tighter frame that is four inches shorter in length and height than last year's entry.

"We've got a really good car with a good design and a good team," Palmer said. "Our main challenge will be the other teams, and we're looking to be a strong contender."

More information as well as images of Tennessee Tech's Mini-Baja cars can be foCOOKEVILLE, Tenn. (May 30, 1997) -- Ask agricultural students at Tennessee Technological University if they have what it takes to succeed, and they likely will try to show you some gold and silver -- awards, that is.

Tennessee Tech agricultural students swept to top finishes in three major regional competitions this academic year.

First, late last fall Tennessee Tech's Soils Judging Team placed second in the American Society of Agronomy's South East Region Soil Judging Contest.

According to adviser Reed Cripps, associate professor of plant and soil science, it was a good finish for a talented team. The contest required students to provide morphological descriptions, determine soil creation forces, describe site hydrology and furnish taxonomic classifications of soil types.

Then in two separate events this spring, agriculture students captured first place overall in the first National Collegiate Walking Horse Judging Contest and top honors in a national irrigation assembly competition held in Dallas, Texas, during a national career days conference presented by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.

In each event, the students proved they have what it takes when it comes to applying classroom learning to real-life situations, according to Ben Byler, director of Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture.

"We're very proud of the students' performance, and we're pleased with what the wins say about our programs and faculty. Competitions like these provide a good measure of the skills and abilities students will bring to the workplace following their graduation. In areas of soil science, landscape management and animal science, our students are showing they are winners."

Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture offers eight concentrations of study, ranging from agribusiness management to agronomy and environmental agriscience. Students also may pursue preprofessional programs in forestry and veterinary medicine. Significant laboratory and field experiences, personal attention from faculty and the considerable resources of the university's W. Clyde Hyder-Tommy Burks Agricultural Pavilion combine to give students the tools and understanding to excel in their careers.

More information on Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture programs is available online at