The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, October 25, 1996, Page 3, Image 3

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    Lab tests tractors, eposes students to farm industry
At East Campus’
unique testing track,
employees work as a
team to examine the
By Erin Gibson
Staff Reporter
From across the nation and around
the world, tractors are coming to UNL’s
East Campus.
The brightly painted steel giants
roll in from Michigan, Arizona and as
far away as Russia.
Louis Leviticus, professor of bio
logical systems engineering, said
manufacturers pay big bucks to bring
their tractors to his Tractor Test Lab
on East Campus.
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protection law has mandated that all
tractors sold for agricultural use in the
state must pass a rigorous set of tests.
The tests are only offered at the East
Campus lab, the only testing track of
its kind in the United States and the
first to develop standardized tractor
Six students and four staff members
conduct the weeklong tests, worth
$20,000 each, he said. The revenue
generated from the 20 yearly tests pays
the lab’s annual operating costs, includ
ing employee salaries, and doesn’t
leave a hefty price tag with the univer
But there is no price tag on the lab’s
benefit to University of Nebraska-Lin
coln students, he said. After gradua
tion, 98 percent of lab workers get jobs
with tractor companies.
“Everybody who works here at the
lab is exposed to many people in the
industry,” Leviticus said. “Even people
who do not have a very good grade
average get jobs.”
But Leviticus said he has high stan
dards for employees. He looks for stu
dents with a work ethic he can trust,
mainly students with farm back
“They go home when the work is
done,” Leviticus said, “not like city
“City kids would take off at five and
leave everything half-finished.”
Keith Kennedy, a mechanized sys
tems management senior, said lab
workers must expect to stay overtime
to complete testing for companies, he
Kennedy said the late work at the
lab is worth it because of connections
made with industry leaders. A job at
the lab also is a good resume builder,
he said.
“It really gives me an edge over a
lot of other majors without the work
experience,” Kennedy said.
Tests conducted at the lab include
a check for compliance with emissions
standards and measuring thf» nnwftr nf
a tractor’s takeoff, the horsepower of
its engine and the weight a tractor can
tow and lift.
Leviticus said corporations spent a
lot of money on the tests, and some
bring in four $150,000 tractors at a
“We have to give them value for
their money,” he said.
Kennedy said when company en
gineers arrive, they expect nothing less
than absolute efficiency and precision.
“We have to be on our feet when
they walk in the door,” he said.
Company engineers spend weeks in
Lincoln to keep an eye on their trac
tors and on the testing. But engineers
in town this week from the AgCo Cap.
say they see little chance of a testing
disaster. i
Robert Becker, AgCo field test con-1
sultant, worked as a student at the UNL
lab more than 40 years ago. He and I
James Rauwerdink, manager of trac-'
tor tests, said students and lab engi-.
neers are very capable.
“Generally, they’re just farm kids,
and they’re top notch,” Becker said, i
To keep the companies .happy, |
Leviticus said the students must work
together to handle the large scale of
testing and to fix problems when they
come up.
“Invariably something goes
wrong,” he said. “Something breaks or
something leaks.”
Leviticus said cold weather halts
the testing process because the tractors ’
rubber components harden during ex
treme cold, and this throws off test re
But during the warm months, the
lab will see several kinds of tractors,
he said.
“We’re kind of like prostitutes,”
Leviticus said. “We do anything which
we can get money for in the engineer
ing area.”
For example, he said, the lab once
tested a Sno-Cat tractor built for polar
ice-core drilling. Another time, a sea
of little lawn-mowing tractors filled the
laboratory floor.
But now, the Legislature may elimi
nate the almost 70-year-old law that
Were kind of like prostitutes. We do
anything which we can get money for in
the engineering area ”
Louis Leviticus
professor of biological systems engineering
brings such tractors to the lab.
If that happens, companies would
no longer be required to have their trac
tors tested at the lab before selling them
in Nebraska.
Becker said this would benefit Ne
braska dealers. Rauwerdink said com
panies, including AgCo, must withhold
some tractor models from the Nebraska
market because of test costs, which can
limit the selection offered to dealers.
But Becker, who has been in Lin
coln for testing since Sept. 28, said
companies will continue to bring their
tractors to East Campus even if the test
ing law is repealed, because the Ne
braska lab tests are valuable creden
tials for a tractor.
Many U.S. tractor manufacturers
also sell their tractors in Europe —
which requires certain standardized
tests — and the Nebraska tests are in
ternationally recognized, he said.
Therefore, the tractor testing lab
should remain busy, Becker said, mak
ing sure the steel giants keep humming.
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