Senior Project Provides Hands On Experience, Takes Two Iowa Teens Back In Time

Two northwest Iowa teens are taking a trip back in time after an old tractor was donated to their high school. In the process of restoring the piece of machinery to its former beauty, the students are getting hands on experience and a history lesson.

With just one look, it’s easy to see that this machine has seen better days. It hasn’t run for 10 years.

MOC-Floyd Valley High School Senior Collin Van Donkelaar said, “We got it just how it is. All the wheels, rims, everything are shot.”

But this doesn’t intimidate Van Donkelaar or Michael Dekker.

“Rebuilt the carburetor for it and now we’re taking the magneto off and we have to try and get sparks so we actually get it to run,” Van Donkelaar said.

They know that behind all the rust is a hint of green if you look hard enough. And they’ve been staring at it hard since September, when they began restoring the tractor as their senior project. Every day, for 45 minutes, they spend a period during school getting their hands dirty.

“It’s just kind of something I enjoy. I enjoy working with my hands and the mechanical aspect,” said Dekker.

Both have worked on tractors before, but never a project this big on their own.

“It’s a 1942 John Deere A,” said Van Donkelaar.

While it’s a big undertaking, they say it brings them back to a time when things were simpler, and in ways, harder.

Dekker said, “I learned a lot about how the mechanical stuff worked. You don’t have electronics to rely on. We’ve just learned how simple it was back then.”

“It’s hand start, no lights, anything, so pretty much, it makes it’s own electricity and spark and that’s all it needs,” Van Donkelaar said.

But the the Model A still needs a lot of work to get there. They’ve had help from their teacher Bob DeHaan and the rest of the community getting and restoring old parts, but it still needs a new paint job. For tires, they hope Titan Tires will come through, who has been known to donate them to FFA members.

Dekker said, “There’s lots of people who are offering to help with it, which has been really nice. Just Sunday, I had an older gentleman talk to me about it at church how he was happy we were taking something like this and making it new again.”

Lessons and experiences they say they’ll take with them far beyond the classroom.

The two hope to finish the project for the Volksparade in the 77th Annual Orange City Tulip Festival in May. They say they haven’t decided exactly what they’ll do with the project when it’s done. They have thought about possibly selling it or auctioning it off to benefit the Holland FFA.

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