Competitors and their parents were on edge Wednesday, March 13, as the 2019 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ Ag Robotics Competition began in NRG Arena’s Sales Pavilion.
Twenty-two junior teams and 13 senior teams from across the state displayed advanced knowledge in programming and robotics during the preliminary round that consisted of two matches per team.
Kelsey Payne, mom of competitors Cooper and Cody Payne, said the miniature machines were programmed to complete tasks including planting seeds, pulling weeds or moving feed bags. The event is judged based on how well the robots completed the attempted challenges in the three minute timeframe.
The top three teams in each division qualified for the final round, which consisted of another two matches. Teams chose which challenges to attempt from a predetermined list of eight.
Thirteen-year-old Maliyah Loa from Nueces County 4-H said she learned a lot about programming from the competition.
“My favorite part is learning so many new things like programming and building,” Maliyah said.
The Ag Robotics Competition also provides students an innovative approach to the agriculture industry and the chance to gain valuable teamwork and critical-thinking skills.
“The Ag Robotics helps young people look at agriculture in a different sense,” Ag Robotics Superintendent Toby Lepley said. “They are the ones who are, for example, creating the new farm technologies and looking at new ways of doing things in the field that are more efficient.”
Lepley said Ag Robotics allows students who may not be mainstream agriculturalist to see how they can be a part of agriculture and experience farm life.
Smith County 4-H took home the championship in both the junior and senior divisions. Both teams received a team trophy and banner, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo bags, award ribbons and $140 gift certificates.