Communications Department
14705 Woodforest Blvd., Houston, TX 77015

March 7, 2012
CONTACT: Jonathan Frey
(832) 386-1231

GREW Crew Takes On EcoBot Challenge

        [Houston, TX] Cloverleaf Elementary Schoolís robotics team, the GREW Crew, competed in the All-Earth EcoBot Challenge held at Harris County Department of Education on March 3. Seventy teams competed in the day-long event administered by the Harris County Department of Education and the Cooperative for After-School Enrichment (CASE). In addition to earning a spot in the top 20 teams, The GREW (Gardening-Recycling-Earth-Weather) Crew was honored to receive the esteemed “Best Out-of-the-Box Thinking” Certificate of Achievement. This distinction secures a place for the team to participate in the April 14 invitational “bot-off” at HCDE.

        “The All-Earth EcoBot Challenge was initiated in 2009 by private sector CEOs and the Education Foundation of Harris County to introduce 21st Century workforce development education into the lives of middle school students, to inspire youth and to incubate entrepreneurial thought,” according to the All-Earth EcoBot Challenge website. “The EcoBot Challenge is an opportunity for students in grades 5-8 to develop critical problem-solving skills in real-world situations that will help prepare them for 21st century jobs.”

        The robotics club was established at Cloverleaf Elementary in spring of 2007 as an extension of the science club. The idea of an elementary school robotics club came from Cyndi Jeansonne, a life skills teacher at Cloverleaf Elementary at the time. Ms. Jeansonne “was a driving force from the very beginning… [and] made the whole project possible,” recalls GREW Crew team sponsor Daniel O'Tool. O'Tool enlisted Oscar Sanchez and together they created the after school robotics program. The trio applied to the Galena Park ISD Education Foundation for two grants to help fund the program.

        The Galena Park ISD Education Foundation was thrilled with the opportunities robotics might bring to the elementary students, and through the Innovative Teaching Grants Program, funded the project, which at the time was called “Thinking Outside the Ro-Box.” Thanks to their support and funding, the club competed in its first Ecobot Challenge in 2010 with Sanchez as coach.

        According to the Galena Park ISD Education Foundation, “The Innovative Teaching Grants Program supports innovative and creative educational projects that increase student achievement.” With a top 20 team and an invitation to the upcoming bot-off, the success of the GREW Crew proves it is working.

Eco Bot

Using a computer, Jesus Lopez (back) and Jonathan Sanchez (front) program the robot to perform the specific functions required by the competition guidelines.

Eco Bot

Team coach Oscar Sanchez (Right) helps Katherine Portillo (Left) and Orlando Garza (Center) think through some of their design challenges.

Eco Bot

The GREW Crew is heading to the invitational “bot-off” competition on April 14. (pictured l/r): Jonathan Sanchez, Jesus Lopez, Orlando Garza, Coach Oscar Sanchez, Katherine Portillo, Sponsor Dan O'Tool.