The NRG Center Main Arena morphed into a mechanic workshop Monday, March 20 during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo State FFA Tractor Technician Contest.
Tall shiny tool boxes lining the stage, and tractors scattered about the arena made for a different feel in the livestock show arena. Eager FFA students tinkered with engines while their advisors waited anxiously, hoping their hard work and dedication would pay off.
For Blake Neelley, Gabriel Janish and Braden Raeke of Bellville FFA, their persistance was rewarded in the form of a first place team finish.
Gabriel, a senior at Bellville High School, said the win was unexpected, and although he is grateful for the win, he said the lessons learned from the contest are far more important than winning.
“I didn’t know anything about tractors before,” Janish said. “But I’ve grown to enjoy them and love them. This was truly a career development event. It’s all about working through problems with your hands and learning the concepts.”
An event like this requires intensive preparation. Dan Diezi, the auto tech teacher at Bellville High School and coach of the winning team, said his team started preparing in October. In that time, he developed a strong relationship with the three students.
“I’ve worked with them and traveled thousands of miles with them,” Diezi said. “They are more like my kids to me than just my students.”
Ross Jones, first year Agricultural Mechanics Committee Chairman, said the contest consists of three parts. Each individual is required to take a written test and a component test that involves physical evaluation of 20 tractor parts.
The 10 highest-scoring teams are then selected to compete in a 30-minute tractor repair race in which the teams must identify and correct five malfunctions in the machinery, and successfully drive the tractor one lap around the arena.
Jones has been involved in the event for 12 years and has seen first-hand the benefits of participating in the Tractor Technician Contest which provides students with practical and technical skills.
“Helping the kids and watching them grow over the years is incredible,” Jones said. “I get to see some kids start as freshmen and finish as seniors and watch their skills develop over the years.”
As chairman of the Agricultural Mechanics Committee, Jones also oversees the Agricultural Mechanics Project Show, a competition which helps students develop a similar skillset through the refurbishment, development and creation of farming equipment. See the talents of Texas 4-H and FFA members who participated in the the Agricultural Mechanics Project Show all day Saturday, March 25 beginning at 8 a.m. in the NRG Center East Arena.