Technology Festival offers showcase for student projects

When speaking about the 2018 CFISD Student Technology Festival, R3: Rethink, Recreate, Redefine, Becky Cook, director of instructional technology, beams with pride when discussing two main points about the event and its nine-year history.

First is the fact that the projects, demonstrations and showcase items displayed by nearly 1,000 CFISD students April 12 at the Berry Center were the same projects, demonstrations and showcase items they work on in the classroom.

“These aren’t extra projects,” Cook said. “These are things that happen every day in our classrooms. What we love is being able to allow our kids to come here and have parents, community members and whoever see all the work that they’ve done.”


Second is the growth experience in less than a decade. The festival started with 200 students at Cypress Ridge High School’s cafeteria and a minimal crowd.

More than 4,100 total guests visited the ninth edition, seeing displays that not only canvassed the entire arena, but the atrium and conference center as well.

“Every year, I have people that come up to me and say, ‘I had no idea,’” Cook said. “They’ll walk through the arena, come out and say, ‘I didn’t know we did automotive, I didn’t know we did Cisco Networking or health sciences.’

“And for others who have been around for nine years, they’re not shocked. They’ve seen this over and over again, and they’ve seen the growth.”

The event is a districtwide celebration of student technology projects and curriculum offerings with students in grades pre-K through 12 showcasing the use of technology in the classroom. Students demonstrated devices, software and programs to help solve problems, simulated collaboration inside and outside the classroom and modeled products they created using technology.


As technology evolves, so does the festival and its projects.

The 2018 event featured an exhibit making its debut, with Tipps Elementary School pre-K students showcasing Bee Bots, a bumblebee-looking robot that maneuvers around an activity mat after it’s programed through coding by the students. The students, many only 4 years old, program the bot to move across the mat, learning shapes, letters and numbers in addition to coding, team-building, language and social skills.

“It’s amazing and everybody is into this,” said Yasmin Ahmad, a Tipps pre-K teacher. “They’ve never done this coding system before and never done this technology in pre-K. We have other technology in our classrooms as well, but this technology is more hands-on. They are directing the Bee Bot themselves and coding the Bee Bot themselves.”

And like many other events and showcases throughout the school year, the Technology Festival is just another example of CFISD offering opportunities for every student.

“From 4 years old all the way to seniors, there is something that will pique somebody’s interests,” Cook said. “It’s all about exposing our students to everything so that they have lots of choices when they decide a path.”


TSA regional competition helps students bring CTE curriculum to life

To Steve Britt, a teacher at Cypress Woods High School, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum offered in CFISD and its partnering extracurricular activities is more than just teaching and learning inside a classroom.

It’s his genuine interests and likes.

“I have the best job on the planet,” said Britt, whose course load includes Robotics I and II, Principles of Manufacturing and Precision Metals Manufacturing, while he also serves as Cypress Woods’ sponsor for High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware program and on the Texas Technology Student Association (TSA) board of directors.

“I get to do my hobbies and take kids out and teach them how to make them their hobbies too.”

DSC_9119Cy-Fair High School students compete in VEX Robotics at the Brazos Valley TSA regional competition on March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit Center.

One event that helps CFISD offer this outlet to secondary students is the Brazos Valley TSA Regional Leadership Conference and Competition, which the district hosted March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit center. It was attended by 12 CFISD high schools and middle school, in addition to students from five visiting campuses.

Students enrolled in CTE courses showcased projects they designed and built, while the event also included a number of competitions including VEX Robotics, Rocket Launch and Carbon Dioxide Cars.

“Some of these kids do have experience coming from the home, whether their parents taught them,” said Mark Williams, CTE curriculum coordinator. “But, a lot of them, this is the first time they’ve ever picked up a handtool – a drill, a hammer – so they’re learning from my teachers.”

Regional competitions across Texas are held throughout February and March. Winners and qualifiers from the 16 regions advance to the TSA state competition, which will be April 15-17 in Fort Worth.

Cypress Woods has the largest TSA chapter in Texas, with students preparing and looking forward to competition from the beginning the school year, Britt said.

DSC_9132Cypress Woods HS CTE students prepare for the Rocket Launch competition at the BVTSA regional on March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit Center.

“It’s definitely helped me think in different ways, trying to figure out problems,” said Cypress Woods senior Ryan Johnson, the school’s TSA chapter president.

But even more so, Britt said regional competitions allow students to take the learning their doing in core classes and applying those lessons in real-life applications. The curriculum and competitions help prepare students for opportunities either entering those industries or higher education.

“I discovered a long time ago – don’t tell a kid that he can’t (because) he will,” Britt said. “I know that sounds cliché in a way but you encourage the kids in just a little bit, point them in the right direction, give them a little gentle shove and step out of the way, they will do astounding and amazing things.”

Cosmetology offers opportunities for high school students

CFISD’s career and technical education curriculum options are just another way the district offers traditional and non-traditional opportunities for every student. That includes a program like cosmetology, where classes not only educate students on a possible career in the field, but open doors to it upon graduation.

More than 1,200 students are enrolled in cosmetology across CFISD’s 12 comprehensive high schools. With some programs still growing at newer schools, the demand and enrollment is so large at others that some campuses require two teachers to meet the need.

CFISD even established, coordinated and operated its first-ever districtwide cosmetology competition, holding the contest Feb. 10 at Langham Creek High School.

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Langham Creek High School sophomore Anayah Dunbar stands beside her braiding project that won Best in Category at the inaugural CFISD Cosmetology Competition on Feb. 10 at Langham Creek.

“It’s growing and the interest in cosmetology just seems to keep increasing,” said Dr. Sharon Hogue, coordinator for career and technical education.

Freshmen, sophomores and juniors can take Introduction to Cosmetology and Cosmetology I, where they explore areas such as hair styling, manicuring, sterilization and sanitation, the principles of hair cutting, coloring, facial makeup, requirements and expectations, and career opportunities.

Upon completion, juniors and seniors can take Cosmetology II and Principles of Cosmetology Design and Color Theory. The curriculum combines to allow a student to earn the 1,000 clock hours of supervised classroom instruction and demonstration needed to meet the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation requirement. A student is also qualified to take the state board test and earn a Texas Cosmetology Operator License following the advanced training upon passing the exam.

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Cypress Ranch High School senior Arianna Foster won Best of Show in fantasy braiding at the SkillsUSA Texas District 8 Leadership Conference and qualified for state competition.

That not only gives each student the opportunity to move right into the workforce following graduation, but does so at a fraction of the cost. The only fees associated with the curriculum are the cost of a $25 permit, the student’s kit and his or her test fee.

“People are blown away to know that instead of spending $27,000 someplace else, they can get it essentially free – or close to free – and come out ready to work as soon as they exit high school,” Hogue said.

CFISD added the cosmetology competition to give students a more cost-effective opportunity to showcase their work and compete. Almost all schools were represented among the 85 projects that were entered.

The event also served as a precursor to regional and statewide competitions held through SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization which serves nearly 400,000 students and professional members enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. The state competition is April 5-8 in Corpus Christi.

Plans are in place for the districtwide competition to grow, just as cosmetology continues to in CFISD.

“Teachers here are trained (and) they’re competing with any school that’s out there,” said Lynette Mosby, a Langham Creek cosmetology instructor. “So, if your student is thinking about doing something like this, Cy-Fair is an awesome place for them to get started.”

Livestock Show and Sale an exclamation mark for FFA students

The program’s highlight came to a finish with a live premium auction Feb. 10, but the CFISD Livestock Show Association’s 24th annual Show and Sale is just part of what CFISD students and community members can experience through FFA and Agriculture Science education.

It’s still a topic that can open one’s eyes, said Corey Taylor, a Cypress Falls High School FFA adviser and Agriculture Science teacher, thanks in large part to Houston’s enormous urban footprint and the overall lack of exposure.

Sometimes, it’s just as simple as getting past that first question.

“We hear, ‘Does a student have to raise an animal to be a member of take the class?’” said Katie Dale, a Cypress Woods High School FFA adviser and Agriculture science teacher. “And we start off by saying you do not have to raise an animal to become involved.”

FFA Panorama 2

The CFISD Livestock Show and Sale – like FFA – is way beyond animals in the show ring at the CFISD Exhibit Center during the Premium Sale during the show’s final day. Every aspect, which includes agriculture science certifications, showing livestock, agriculture mechanics and horticulture, can offer lifelong skills for students. The program can prepare them for careers and become confident in the decision-making process.

“Beyond this, it allows students to get a hands-on feeling for what it takes to become dedicated, responsible and invested in something that will make them grow as young people in both humble wins as well as defeat,” Taylor said. I like to tell my students involved in the program that ‘You either win or you learn.’ Either way, you aren’t losing.”

The three-day CFISD Livestock Show and Sale is the peak for most students involved in the program, as they are able to showcase their work to the CFISD community and business partners. Now in its 24th edition, the 2018 show and sale saw approximately 800 students combine for nearly 900 entries.

The first two days are the shows and judging to determine champions in 11 separate divisions (Broiler, Turkey, Ag Mechanics, Horticulture, Goat, Lamb, Steer, Heifer, Market Rabbits, Breeding Rabbits and Swine).

The final day brings the sales, with first the silent auction and freezer sale before the Premium Sale (live auction) ends the showcase event. A final amount for total sales generated is not yet available, but the Premium Sale unofficially raised nearly $340,000.

Students are expected to seek out buyers and donations, tying those marketing and social skills back to what the learn in the classroom. Sales, pledges and donations to show entries are used to help fund higher education or further a student’s experience in the program. The 2017 Volume Buyer Award went to Mike and Darlene Jarrar of Jarrar & Company, Inc., which contributed $93,600 to the nearly $800,000 in sale generated at last year’s event.

“You can see the passion in the students’ eyes and all their hard work surface, and it is a privilege to cheer for them on the side lines,” Dale said. “To watch my students in their big moment makes every late night and early morning worth it. I believe that FFA helps grow students into the best version of themselves. It teaches them responsibility, manners, sportsmanship, and financial responsibility. Watching a student transform into the best version of themselves through their livestock project and through everything else our chapter has to offer has been a major blessing and the best feeling in the world.”