Industrial ingenuity

MANSON – More than 200 projects from seven schools were showcased at the annual Northwest Iowa Industrial Technology Fair Wednesday, but only four could move on their own power.

The unique vehicles were part of the “junkyard wars” style competition, held every year at the fair.

Perhaps the most striking was a four-wheel-drive monstrosity built by the Ridge View High School agriculture class, of Holstein. It sat on four pickup truck tires connected to four-wheeler axles. The articulated frame was made from a Case planter.

Junior Austin Tiefenthaler said it was the teacher’s idea to make the articulated system.

“It’s something different,” said Drew VanZweden, a junior.

Four groups from three schools drove their junk buggies while other students browsed booths from area colleges as they all waited for the judges to review their projects.

Woodworking, crafts, cabinets, metal welding projects and drafting displays were all there for the judges’ scrutiny.

The annual fair is held at a different school every year. This year it was hosted by Manson Northwest Webster and industrial tech teacher Brian Nelson.

Nelson said it was a chance for the kids to show others their work.

“Basically, they’re able to show off everything they’ve done. They’ve put in a lot of time and effort into it,” Nelson said. “They get a response to what they’ve done. Someone with a non-biased opinion is able to look at it and tell them how they did.”

John O’Brien, principal at Rabiner Treatment Center, was impressed by the students’ work in the crafts division.

“That’s pretty unique,” O’Brien said of a wooden collection of dinosaurs. “I like how he made that into a puzzle.”

The intricate pieces are much more complex than what could be made when he was in school, O’Brien said, adding that students now have access to much better equipment.

“What goes through these kids’ minds is what really inspires me, to be able to do these complex pieces,” O’Brien said. “It’s all art.”

Trevon Lowery, a senior from Fort Dodge Senior High, crafted an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter from aluminum, stainless steel and brass.

“It took me quite a while, about a month and a half,” Lowery said.

The sculpture is the result of experience in metal work.

“I’ve been doing that ever since I came to high school, pretty much,” he said.

Back out in the cold, the Ridge View Ag team put their junk buggy in low gear by removing the drive chain and putting on a different gear.

The vehicles had two challenges: a tractor pull-type event and a time trial through an orange cone slalom course.

Alex Bottger, a junior from Woodbury-Central, struggled to find a forward gear in the lawn tractor gearbox attached to his buggy.

“Basically we got a whole bunch of parts from the junk pile and put them together,” Bottger said.

Each buggy was required to have a seatbelt, a rollbar and a kill switch, said Drake McArthur, a Lawton-Bronson sophomore. The motor must be under 8 horsepower.

Other than that, teams let their creativity run wild. The Ridge View ag team had the only four-wheel-drive buggy, while the Lawton-Bronson team went with a high-speed three-wheeled design.

Lawton-Bronson’s instructor, David Miller, said these buggies are a good way to use what the kids have learned.

“They go through the sheet metal and the welding and all that, and then this is like their fun activity that they build off it,” Miller said.

Unfortunately, while they zipped through the slalom course, the trike had no low gear and wasn’t able to move the pull sled. Lawton-Bronson got first in speed test, but third overall. Ridge View’s four-wheel-drive unit got first in the pull and first overall, while the Ridge View auto tech team took second overall.