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  • Beverly Berens $10
  • Michael Colucci $50
  • Gifts by Mail $50

Folding Tractor Step – Universal Assistive Device Design Project

An anonymous donor has generously agreed to match all donations up to $1,500

Photo of Dan Acre, a farmer from Clinton County, Michigan

Farmers with physical limitations to their legs have a very difficult time climbing the first step of tractor ladders. Tractors are used multiple times daily to feed livestock, work fields, clean barns, haul loads, plus hundreds of other tasks. During busy seasons, the steps may be climbed more than 50 times per day! The original ladders on most types of farm equipment are steep and tall with small surface areas on the steps themselves. The first step is especially high off the ground, typically 22 inches.

Such large distances between steps strain the hips and knees. And the small step area makes it difficult to stand securely on the step with two feet. While these tall steps are necessary to maintain high ground clearance when driving tractors on rough terrain, it is nearly impossible for a farmer with a leg injury, arthritis or other disability to climb. A folding tractor step is needed to make climbing onto equipment such as tractors, harvesters, sprayers and planters less of a strain for the farmer’s body.

MSU’s Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Capstone Design students will design a prototype Folding Tractor Step for Dan Acre, a 68-year-old farmer from Clinton County, Michigan. He has farmed his whole life, first with his dad, now with his brothers and nephew. While still in high school, he started to develop an arthritic condition in his left hip that caused it to seize up and limit the range of motion. He began walking with a forearm crutch at that time to maintain safe balance. Like most farmers, he had a can-do attitude and figured out a way to keep working 14-hour days on the farm.

Over the years he developed bone spurs in his good hip on the right side. In 2013, an attempted hip surgery to clean up the spurs failed and resulted in his good hip also having limited range of motion. Dan continues to work full-time on the dairy farm, but with the ability to lift his feet only seven inches, it is impossible for him to climb onto tractors without help. The Folding Tractor Step designed through this project will allow him to independently access his tractors and be a productive worker on the farm.

Your Support Can Make a Big Impact for Farmers with Physical Limitations

Funding for this project will enable students in MSU’s Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Capstone Design class to work with Michigan AgrAbility to design and prototype an engineered folding tractor step. Michigan AgrAbility provides critical assistance to enable people in the agricultural industry with an injury, illness or disability to continue working.

A key design challenge for the students will be to design a system that enables the farmer to raise and lower the step automatically while sitting on the tractor seat. Once designed and prototyped, the finished step could be an after-market product installed on tractor ladders all around Michigan for farmers like Dan. In addition, the design will be shared with manufacturers for possible production and sale.

Folding Tractor Step ME Capstone Design Project Budget

All senior mechanical engineering students participate in the MSU’s highly acclaimed Capstone Design class. These students work in teams on real projects that draw on their technical expertise, communication skills and creativity. Each student team works with a faculty advisor who monitors the team’s progress and evaluates their results. Funding for projects is typically provided by industrial sponsors.

Your support of this project will cover materials and expenses for a student team to design a prototype folding tractor step in the ME Capstone Design class in the spring of 2016. The students will present their design and prototype at the College of Engineering’s Design Day in the MSU Engineering Building on April 29, 2016.

Any additional funds raised as part of this project will provide support the Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design program. For additional information about the Capstone Design program, contact Mike Colucci colucci3@egr.msu.edu

Make a Gift by Mail:

University Advancement
Spartan Way
535 Chestnut Road, Room 300
East Lansing, MI 48824

*Make check payable to Michigan State University and write “Appeal 16CRFPR1TRACTOR” in the note section.

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