Clear Creek ISD students take robotics competitions, livestock exhibitions virtual amid COVID-19

Students will have the opportunity to safely show and sell their agriculture projects through the 2021 CCISD Livestock Show and Online Sale through Jan. 20. (Courtesy Clear Creek ISD)
Students will have the opportunity to safely show and sell their agriculture projects through the 2021 CCISD Livestock Show and Online Sale through Jan. 20. (Courtesy Clear Creek ISD)

Students will have the opportunity to safely show and sell their agriculture projects through the 2021 CCISD Livestock Show and Online Sale through Jan. 20. (Courtesy Clear Creek ISD)

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Robotics team member Sadie Gafka, the spotter, checks the “cells” using a tester to see if they are infected, uninfected or immune, while member Arturo Sanchez picks up the “vaccines” to deliver to the frames or platforms to immunize cells. (Courtesy Jayme Sanchez)
While COVID-19 has compromised many of the extracurricular activities to which Clear Creek ISD students are accustomed, student leaders on robotics teams and those involved with livestock shows have adapted to virtual competition and exhibition environments.

CCISD students will have the opportunity to safely show and sell their agriculture projects through the 2021 CCISD Livestock Show and Online Sale through Jan. 20, according to a district media release. For nearly four decades, the show has given students an avenue to show off the results of their work caring for their animals and developing agriculture projects in the hopes of being named the Grand Champion in their category, per the release.

Parents and community members can watch students show their animals and projects via livestream, and they can also make purchases, sponsor or donate to the program through the online store. A schedule of events and the online store are viewable here.

“Although we know our students will miss the in-person live auction this year, the excitement is building for the opportunity for each to demonstrate the results of their hard work during an unconventional season,” said JT Buford, the district’s career and technical education program manager, in the release. “I know I speak for their parents and teachers when I express how proud we all are of the tenacity and grit each has demonstrated over the past several months.”

Team members commit to early morning and late afternoon feedings in the CCISD agricultural facilities, learning showmanship practices and character-building skills; the sponsorship and sale of animals and projects supports the year-long investment students make into their projects, starting with the initial purchase of the animal, per the release. Member expenses range from $300 to $3,500, depending on the species or category of agriculture project to which the student has committed.


At the end of the fall semester, another group of students at Westbrook Intermediate School adapted to new environments in order to participate in the Texas BEST Robotics Competition for the ninth year in a row.

BEST—Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology—is a competition focused on the engineering and marketing of a robot, in addition to driving the system on a game field. This year’s game theme, Outbreak, required the team to design, build and operate a micro-robot, manually and autonomously, to isolate virus-infected cells from others and apply localized vaccines to slow or stop infection spread, according to a media release from parent volunteer Jayme Sanchez.

The WIRED Robotics team adapted to changes in venue for their December competitions after organizers offered a different set of participation methods: virtual only, classroom competition and multiple-team, in-person competition, per the release. WIRED chose the classroom competition option, designing and building both a robot and practice field in Westbrook’s robotics lab.

Members often had to collaborate via Microsoft Teams meetings and navigate unique challenges in robot construction, since the robot is manufactured from raw materials such as PVC pipe, plywood, and metal pieces, per the release. All other competition components—the marketing presentation, virtual exhibit booth interviews, critical design review and time trials—were live streamed to the judges at regional, then statewide BEST competitions. The team had support from numerous community businesses and mentors during the Sept. 11-Dec. 12 season.

“[The team experienced] no crowds cheering, no sizing up the competition, not even our entire team could be in the room for drive time,” Sanchez said in an email. “But the kids rose to the challenge!”

By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.