MANHATTAN — Carl and Melinda Helwig, owners of Helwig Farms, Columbus, have made a gift to support the Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team — previously known as Powercat Tractors — at Kansas State University and the biological and agricultural engineering department in the College of Engineering.
The Helwigs competed together in tractor-pulling competitions — and placed nationally in the early 1980s — while raising wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum on their southeast Kansas farm. Accustomed to working weeks of all-day and late-night harvests, pulling together for the thrill of competing was part of their success in tractor-pulling competitions. The Helwigs, with home-built tractors and locally built engines, placed nationally in a sport which demonstrates the power of engineering and inspired innovation, much like Kansas State University's quarter-scale tractor team.
Last year when the Helwigs were searching for ways to invest their harvest proceeds, creating a gift of grain and charitable remainder trust with the university proved the most efficient means. They were able to focus the gift of grain to support the university's quarter-scale tractor team.
The team encompasses squads of juniors and seniors, the A team; and freshmen and sophomores, the X team. Both squads placed in the 20th annual American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers' International Quarter-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition in Peoria, Illinois, in the spring under the university's new Helwig Farms Quarter-Scale Tractor Team banner.
Supervised by the biological and agricultural engineering department, the Helwig Farm 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.
The Helwigs are members of the Kansas State University Foundation's President's Club, a philanthropic leadership organization for friends and alumni of the university; 1863 Circle, which honors leadership in annual giving; and the Land Grant Legacy Society, which honors those who include a gift to the university in their estate plan.
"We have had a good life, a lot of luck in grain production … and enjoyed the thrill of competition," said Carl Helwig about the Helwig Farm gift. "We wanted the students to have every opportunity to be on top."
"In recognition of the Helwigs' gift, K-State's competitive tractor program has been renamed the Helwig Farm Quarter-Scale Tractor Team," said Joe Harner, head of the biological and agricultural engineering department.
Philanthropic contributions to Kansas State University are coordinated by the KSU Foundation. The foundation is leading Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas State University to raise $1.4 billion for student success, faculty development, facility enhancement and programmatic success.