Post 152: Technion’s TracTech takes top prizes at tractor face off and Fenugreek powder

The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015 (Courtesy)

The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015 (Courtesy)

Technion’s TracTech takes top prizes at tractor face off

Israeli team showed extreme ‘professionalism and originality’ with its quarter-scale farm vehicle, said judges in IllinoisBY DAVID SHAMAH July 21, 2015, 4:06 pm

The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015. The Technion team shows off the TracTech at the IQS Tractor Student Design Competition in Batavia, Illinois, July 14 2015 (Courtesy)WRITER
David Shamah
A Technion team that built a better tractor has won first place in two categories of the International Quarter-Scale (IQS) Tractor Student Design Competition, the world’s biggest engineering and design contest for farm vehicles.

Get the Start-Up Israel’s daily newsletter
and never miss our top stories FREE SIGN UP!

Participants in the contest have to build a working quarter-scale machine. Said the judges of the Technion team: “Never has a team in its first appearance in the competition shown such professionalism and originality.”

The team’s vehicle, the TracTech, was designed by students at the Techion who study under Professor Itzhak Shmulevich of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Technion team – the first Israeli team to participate in the competition since its inception 18 years ago – won first place in the platform testing and development category and the quiet platform for environmental conditions category.

The contest is sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and was established to encourage more engineering students to seek careers as agricultural engineers – an area that industry giants like Caterpillar and John Deere, the top makers of tractors and farm equipment, were having trouble recruiting candidates for. Today, excellence in the competition is seen as a prerequisite for a job in the industry and a ticket to a top job.

The contest was held in Batavia, Illinois, and the final decision was rendered over the weekend.

Vehicles produced within the framework of competition are intended for small agricultural farms and, therefore, must combine the speed and comfort of an all-terrain vehicle with the advantages of a tractor, including resistance to mud and rough terrain and good control at slow speeds.

According to the judges, the TracTech fulfilled both requirements quite well. Teams needed to demonstrate their platform’s motor abilities of drag resistance and durability on a tough obstacle course, working with numerous constraints (using only commonly available fuel and standard, easily replaced tires, for example). In addition, the teams had to show that their platform made sense economically and could be built in accordance with market requirements and on the assumption that 3,000 units would be sold per year.

Work on the project began in November 2014, and involved many individuals and groups in the industry, said Shmulevich. “On the night of May 25, we flew to Illinois, where we had three days to complete the construction of the platform. Those were days of frenzied teamwork, which all the project participants undoubtedly remember as a special professional experience.”

Assisting the team were Eliasaf Becker, an auto mechanics instructor and the lab technician for machine and soil interaction at the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Helpful individuals at the school’s Center for Research in Agricultural Engineering, the Energy Program at the Technion, and the Institute of Agricultural Engineering, as well as Scania Israeli Ltd and Zoko Enterprises – Caterpillar Israel Ltd., also lent a hand.

“For me this is an extraordinary success,” said Shmulevich, who suggested to students that they develop the TracTech for the contest.

“This is the first Israeli delegation in the history of the competition, and it is important to understand that we competed there with about 30 highly experienced teams, with far more significant support and budgeting. I hope that the successful outcome will lead to the formation of a new team to build another platform in preparation of next year’s competition.”


Fenugreek is a plant. The seeds are used to make medicine.

Fenugreek is used for many conditions, but so far, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is effective for any of them.

Fenugreek is used for digestive problems such as loss of appetite, upset stomachconstipation, and inflammation of the stomach (gastritis). It is also used for conditions that affect heart health such as “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and for high blood levels of certain fats including cholesterol and triglycerides.

Fenugreek is used for kidney ailments, a vitamin deficiency disease called beriberi, mouth ulcers, boils, bronchitis, infection of the tissues beneath the surface of the skin(cellulitis), tuberculosis, chronic coughs, chapped lips, baldness, cancer, and lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes.

Some men use fenugreek for hernia, erectile dysfunction (ED), and other male problems.

Women who are breast-feeding sometimes use fenugreek to promote milk flow.

Fenugreek is sometimes used as a poultice. That means it is wrapped in cloth, warmed and applied directly to the skin to treat local pain and swelling (inflammation), muscle pain, pain and swelling of lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), pain in the toes (gout), wounds, leg ulcers, and eczema.

The taste and odor of fenugreek resembles maple syrup, and it has been used to mask the taste of medicines.

In foods, fenugreek is included as an ingredient in spice blends. It is also used as a flavoring agent in imitation maple syrup, foods, beverages, and tobacco.

In manufacturing, fenugreek extracts are used in soaps and cosmetics.

Fenugreek leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable.

How does it work?

Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.

 Vegan Ice-Cream


  • 1 ½ cups/200 grams raw, unsalted cashews

  • 4 medium bananas, preferably somewhat speckled but not brown, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons/90 grams extra-virgin coconut oil

  • 2 tablespoons/28 grams dark brown sugar or less

  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams plus a pinchkosher salt

  • ¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar

  • ½ cup/80 grams cocoa butter, available at baking supply stores and online

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/266 milliliters coconut milk

  • ½ cup/65 grams chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)


  1. To make the cashew milk, place the cashews in a large bowl and add water to cover by a couple of inches. Soak cashews overnight.
  2. In the morning, drain the cashews and place them in a blender with about 1 3/4 cups (375 grams) fresh water. Blend until smooth. If you use a Vitamix, there will be no need to strain – the milk will be perfectly smooth; for other blenders, check the consistency and, if necessary, strain the cashew milk through a fine-mesh strainer. Cashew milk will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
  3. To roast the bananas, heat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the bananas, 2 tablespoons/27 grams coconut oil, brown sugar and pinch of salt. Spread on prepared baking sheet until caramelized, about 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  4. Put 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan over medium to low heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved. Add cocoa butter, remaining 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons/63 grams coconut oil and remaining salt. Stir until melted.
  5. Pour the sugar mixture into in a food processor (or use a tall 2-quart container and an immersion blender), and add the coconut milk and 1 cup/212 grams cashew milk. Blend until smooth. Add roasted bananas and blend again to combine until very smooth. Cover and refrigerate the ice cream base until chilled, 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, add toasted walnuts, if desired, and churn until incorporated. Transfer the ice cream to a storage container and freeze up to 7 days. Alternatively, you can serve it immediately. It will be the consistency of soft-serve.
 Adapted from “Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream,” by Laura O’Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen and Pete Van Leeuwen with Olga Massov, Ecco, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s