InTrans / Sep 07, 2022

Iowa Build a Better Mousetrap winners named

2022 Build a Better Mousetrap winner Madison County’s shop clean-up squeegee

What do a shop clean-up squeegee, cold mix placer, and salt/sand spreader lifting jig all have in common?

They’re all three innovative projects undertaken this year in Iowa counties, for one. They’re also winning entries in the 2022 Iowa Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) Competition.

The winning entries—from first to third—are the secondary roads departments in Madison County with the shop clean-up squeegee, Jones County with the cold mix placer, and Linn County with the sand/salt spreader lifting jig.

The winning counties were initially recognized at the ICEA Mid-Year Conference in July and will receive a plaque at the Iowa Streets and Roads Conference in September. All three received a number of free workshop registrations, and first place will also get a celebratory lunch at their county shop. Each of the innovations has also been submitted to the regional BABM competition in Rapid City, South Dakota. Congratulations to them all!

More details about those innovations follows.

Madison County – Shop Clean-Up Squeegee

Madison County Secondary Roads staff members were looking for a way to reduce manpower and time to clean their shop, wash bay, and cold storage truck bays.

Their solution was to use a rainy day to make a squeegee that they could put on their skid steer using mostly reclaimed materials from other projects. Between the materials and man hours, the staff completed the project for less than $500.

“We managed to reduce the time to clean and wash the shop from 2 hours down to 15 minutes,” read the entry. “This squeegee has not only reduced the time it takes but also cuts down on the dust considerably and allows us to take personnel to focus on other projects.”

Jones County – Cold-Mix Placer

Jones County’s Build a Better Mousetrap cold-place mixer entry

Jones County Secondary Roads staff members wanted an easier method to fill holes and cracks in their paved roadway system than the ones they had been using that included running the cold-mix asphalt out of the front sander of a dump truck or shoveling mix out of the back of a pickup truck.

Their solution was to develop a portable automated unit that contained the cold-mix asphalt and portioned out the mix at a precise location. Two fabricators in the county produced the unit in 25 hours using a hopper, auger, and hydraulic power unit, with a few other locally purchased materials and components. The total cost of the unit was estimated to be about $7,250.

“The cold-mix placer enables maintenance crews to get the material where it needs to be placed, resulting in quicker response times, less material wasted, and making an unfavorable task much easier to perform,” reads the entry. “Little or no clean-up is required when the unit is not in use. Any excess material in the hopper can simply be augured back into the stockpile.”

Linn County – Salt/Sand Spreader Lifting Jig

Linn County’s Build a Better Mousetrap salt/sand spreader lifting jig entry

Linn County Secondary Roads mechanics were looking for a safe and effective solution to remove salt/sand spreaders, or sanders, from the back of dump trucks when they were brought to the shop for repair.

Their solution was to build a lifting device that could be attached to the sander from outside the truck and thus eliminate the need for an employee to physically climb over the truck bed and into the sander to attach a lift chain. They designed and fabricated the lifting jig using materials on hand from the weld shop.

“For less than $300 and a few hours of labor, Linn County has a safe, efficient and quick way to prep the sander for removal from the dump truck that also helps prevent injury,” reads the entry. “The jig is made from steel, so we expect it will provide many years of service.”

Additional details about this year’s innovations will soon be available on the Iowa Innovations web page. In the meantime, check out the previous years’ winners at the page. If you think you have an innovative solution to an everyday challenge, learn more about the BABM competition and get a head start on applying for 2023 at the BABM Competition web page.