Crane lifts BSE students to 1st place in national design contest

An attachment that turns a skid steer loader into a mobile crane that can lift 3,500 lbs. 40 feet in the air won top prize in a national design contest for its inventors, a team of students in the UW-Madison biological systems engineering department.

In order to win they had to beat out some tough hometown competition. Second prize went to another UW-Madison team for a boring device used to sample hay, forage and biomass. Both products were developed for BSE’s capstone senior design class.

The first- and second-place teams won $1,250 and $1,000 respectively for their success in the 2009 AGCO student design competition sponsored by ASABE, a society for engineering in agriculture, food and biological systems.

The crane attachment was designed to overcome major safety concerns and low hoisting capacities of lifting accessories currently available for skid loaders, says BSE professor Dave Bohnhoff, who advised the crane team.

“It can lift 10 times the load of any regular skid steer boom, and can lift it farther up and farther in front,” says Bohnhoff. “That’s because it has its own outriggers — ¬ actually two sets of dual caster wheels positioned to enable the skid steer loader to provide more counterbalance to the load being lifted.”

More counterbalance means less chance of forward tip-over — always a concern when a loader’s lifting arms are raised with weight on them. The students’ knuckle-boom crane operates with the arms down. It can lift a 1,800 pounds with the boom extended 40 feet in front of the machine’s outriggers.

Skid-steer loaders are ubiquitous on small-scale construction projects, especially the post-frame construction that’s a mainstay on farms and other rural enterprises.

While the attachment likely won’t get manufactured any time soon, the prototype will get plenty of testing. It will get used for Bohnhoff’s construction research projects, and likely for chores around the university’s agricultural research stations.

While the design itself may not get put to use, the design experience definitely will be, Bohnhoff says. “I can’t imagine a potential employer not being impressed with what these students have done,” he notes.

Students on the crane design team include Peter Harris, Pao Her, Andrew Holstein and Kyle Nelson. Kody Habeck and Shane Williams, who were advised by BSE professor Kevin Shinners, developed the Badger Borer sampling device.