Tractor teams & dream machines

Carl and Melinda Helwig transform K-State's quarter-scale tractor team.

By Marisa Larson

“We have had a good life; been fortunate in grain production … and we’ve enjoyed the thrill of competition. We want the students to have every opportunity to be on top.”
 Carl Helwig


Camaraderie fills the workshop as the Kansas State University quarter-scale tractor team shares stories with Carl and Melinda Helwig. The Helwigs, a couple from Columbus, Kansas, have invested in the team, which now carries their name — the Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team.

Participating in tractor pulls has long been a hobby of Carl and Melinda. The shop at their farm is filled with trophies and memories of the time they spent participating in competitions. They know firsthand the valuable skills the students on the team are learning.

“Students are learning mechanical skills, how to work together and how to make a presentation,” Carl said. “They have to build a tractor from the ground up and present what they built to the judges. And they have to work as a team; that’s an important part of their experience.”

The Helwigs gifted grain from their harvest last year and created a charitable remainder trust. With these investments, the Helwigs are able to support the team now and in the future through the endowment of their gift.

“Having the support of the Helwigs has helped to guarantee the continued success of our team by allowing us to spend more time designing our tractor instead of trying to raise money to build it,” said Braden Mishler, senior in biological systems engineering. “With the guaranteed source of funds for the future, it allows us to invest in some newer equipment to build our tractor as well as the financial ability to test different things that we were previously unable to.”

Supervised by the biological and agricultural engineering department in K-State’s College of Engineering, the Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor team challenges students to harness the power and torque of a specified stock engine in order to maximize performance in competition. Annually, 15 to 20 students representing three degree programs and two colleges make up the team. They gain practical experience in design of drive-train systems, tractor performance, manufacturing processes and material and performance analyses.

“This team brings excellent benefits if you put in the time,” said Megan Workman, senior in agronomy. “The experience gained from designing, building and presenting a tractor for this team gives all of us involved a real look into what is expected from us in the industry after graduation. The benefit professionally is matched with a great personal benefit. The teamwork experiences gained and friendships made while being on this team will last a lifetime.”

The Helwigs and members of the team have had the opportunity to meet and share stories and have come away feeling like family.

“We didn’t have any children,” Melinda said. “So, we’ve kind of adopted the team as our children.”

As with family, the Helwigs are proud to support the accomplishments of their team.

“We have had a good life; been fortunate in grain production … and we’ve enjoyed the thrill of competition,” Carl said. “We want the students to have every opportunity to be on top.”helwig

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