September 2021Vol. 29, No. 3

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Congratulations, Minnesota Mousetrappers!

Congratulations to the recipients of Minnesota’s 2021 Build a Better Mousetrap Awards! First place goes to the City of New Brighton for its skid loader attachment, and second place to Freeborn County for step extensions for Macks.

Bobcat driver using skid loader attachment to spread asphalt

Photo: City of New Brighton

First Place: City of New Brighton

Skid loader attachment

Problem: When dumping gravel and asphalt in smaller areas such as water main break sites, city staff were relying on a skid loader, shoveling, and a lot of hand luting to complete the job. This process was time- and labor-intensive and left a lot of material in the street to clean up.

Solution: The city purchased a skid loader attachment and modified it to allow workers to spread material faster, cleaner, and more evenly. Modifications included welding on a swivel plate, adding a hydraulic cylinder for leveling, creating and welding the tubing framework, and making screeds in different widths. It took 60 hours to create and cost about $1,600. The attachment requires fewer workers, cuts the time it takes to do a job in half, and improves safety by helping keep workers out of traffic.

Second Place: Freeborn County

Step extensions for Macks

step extension on a Mack truck

Photo: Freeborn County

Problem: County workers could not safely scrape ice off of or clean the windows of their Mack trucks. It was dangerous trying to climb up onto the tire, especially while parked on the side of the road with other vehicles driving by.

Solution: The county purchased factory steps from Mack and modified them to make extensions to the existing cab entry steps, allowing workers to more safely climb up onto the truck tires to clean their windows. The modification process required sheet metal, square tubing, a welder, and a band saw, and it cost approximately $200 per truck for materials. The step extensions will reduce the number of slips, trips, and falls that may have happened when workers were climbing on things that said “no step” or trying to pull themselves up onto the big tires.


Runner-up: Otter Tail County

Chip-seal marker installation tool

chip-seal marker installation tool

The chip-seal marker installation tool speeds up the process.
Photo: City of New Brighton

Problem: When installing chip-seal markers, county workers had to spend a lot of time getting on and off the tailgate of the pickup truck, walking down the road, and bending over to place each marker.

Solution: County staff created a chip-seal marker installation tool that allows one person to drive the pickup truck while another person in the back installs the chip-seal markers without getting off the tailgate. The tool took about one hour to fabricate and cost less than $20 in materials. Chip-seal markers can now be installed at a minimum of double the speed with the same number of workers.