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'This is their Super Bowl' | Texas high schoolers compete in FFA Tractor Tech championship

"We are actually the first all-girls team to make it to the floor at a state contest," said Samantha Diezi, from Bellville.

HOUSTON — While the concerts and carnival get a lot of attention at RodeoHouston, there are so many other events going on that you might not know about. One of them is the Tractor Technician competition.

"They have 30 minutes to debug that tractor and get that tractor running," explained Justin Kirby, chairman of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's Ag Mechanics Committee. "This is their Super Bowl."

The kids competed in the Texas FFA Tractor Technician competition. It started on Sunday with 36 regional winners from all over Texas. Each of the team's three members took a 100-question written test and a 100-question components test. The Top 10 teams made it to NRG Center on Monday.

"We are actually the first all-girls team to make it to the floor at a state contest for this contest," said Samantha Diezi, who along with fellow seniors Kylee Svinky and Emily Spiess, makes up the Bellville team.

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An hour before they hit the main arena, organizers issued the challenge: A  customer dropped off a tractor with five bugs that they would have to repair.

"They give us service manuals to look through and so we took about 45 minutes and looked through both of those books and put tabs on certain pages so they were easy to find," Diezi said.

The pages may have been easy to find, but the fixes definitely were not.

"You can have 10 hours up there in that room, but until you’re right here in front of the tractor, you just don’t know what you’re looking for and you don’t know how to fix it," said Gage White, a senior from San Antonio's James Madison High School.

Some of the issues involved a missing PTO shaft, a light bug, a missing seat switch and an unplugged ECU control sensor. The teams had to fully address each issue for full points before they drove the tractor around the arena.

"Each bug is worth 45 points in and of itself," White said. "So driving first gets you 50 points, but if you miss any of those bugs, it’s lost completely."

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The competition taught more than just tractor repair. In the process, students learned teamwork, communication and the value of hard work.

"Keeping our cool was a big thing," said White. "Me and our team, we’ve worked together a lot lately. We’ve been working all year on this."

That paid off for the Madison High School team. They placed first.

"We brought it together," White smiled. "It’s great. It’s great. We’ve been working so hard. I’ve been doing this for two years and this is the goal. 

Bellville’s team came in third.

"It feels very good to say we can be the third-best team in Texas and still be a team of all females," said Svinky.

Along with bragging rights, the top teams got thousands of dollars worth of tools and other prizes, not to mention the skills and know-how that will help them succeed beyond high school.

"It’s a life-changer. It can take them from poverty level to $70,000-$80,000 a year job, just coming out of this contest and learning these skills," Kirby said. "It’s big time. It can change a person’s life forever. Sets them up good." 

You can learn more about the Texas FFA Tractor Tech Competition here

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