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Traction And Ballasting Experiments Using Lego Mindstorms

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative Curriculum Developments

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1352.1 - 10.1352.7



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Paper Authors

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Brian Adams

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Traction and Ballasting Experiments Using Lego Mindstorms

Brian T. Adams, Jordan F. Keene

Assistant Professor/Student University of Missouri-Columbia 234 Agricultural Engineering Building Columbia, MO 65211


In the agricultural machinery course at the University of Missouri, Lego Mindstorm kits are been used to teach concepts of traction, ballasting, and autonomous vehicles to upper class students. Based on the first two year’s experience with an autonomous tractor pull, new methods have been developed to challenge students to gain an understanding ballasting and traction. Using a pulling sled developed for the course, teams of students must collect data on their tractors using different tire, drive, and ballast configurations. The teams of students must write a report to evaluate the pulling performance of their vehicles and participate in a tractor pull with the rest of the class. Methods of constructing the pulling sled and conducting the tractor pull are described, along with the activities related to the classroom assignments.


The University of Missouri Agriculture Systems Management program offers a course titled Agricultural Equipment and Machinery. Students learn about different types of equipment used in farming applications and acquire knowledge of management principles pertaining to equipment use. The class includes "hands-on" experience, such as field trips to farms and vineyards to a look at current farming practices around central Missouri. The students are particularly fond of the "hands-on" experiences, and have requested more. Traction and ballasting are two topics that are difficult to demonstrate in the lab due to availability and cost of equipment. New laboratories have been developed using LEGO Mindstorms to demonstrate traction and ballasting. An introduction to autonomous vehicles is added in the form of an "autonomous tractor pull" to make the experience more exciting and educational for the students.

By using small models of tractors, students gain an understanding of important concepts. Modern farm equipment is “increasingly being controlled by digital electronics, yet many mechanical engineering programs have not incorporated this into the curriculum1". From the educational standpoint, a physical model may appeal to students more than a graphical representation.2

The Mindstorm project was developed as a robotics invention system. LEGO began working with electric motors as far back as 1962, and by 1977 had a project TECHNIC involving gears Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Adams, B. (2005, June), Traction And Ballasting Experiments Using Lego Mindstorms Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15085

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