Virtual reality has easily climbed its way to one of the most progressive technologies in many recent years. As well, it can be used in many different fields to enhance the learning process and broaden both knowledge and hands on experience opportunities.
Maintaining a team involves many different things, from active members to training. Sustainability is the merging of these two aspects in order to guarantee the next generation of the team is ready for any challenge.
Team 4206’s plan for sustainability is a simple three step process:
- Educate. As seniors leave and move on to their new adult lives, other team members must step up and take on the vacant roles in order to keep things running smoothly. In order to do this, we try to educate rising team members in the positions they are preparing to undertake. Seniors have invaluable information and experience that could fully prepare someone for their new role, and we hope to fully utilize their talents and knowledge to train the next generation of Robo Vikes.
- Outreach. The team doesn’t freeze up during the summer. We work on finding potential sponsors and community members. Another key to sustaining a team is to maintain a presence in the area. We do this through outreach in things like FLL or other forms of volunteer work.
- Planning. Last but not least comes the all important step of planning for success. The off-season is a time for team members to step back and look at what went wrong and right in the recent season. This opportunity offers us a chance to really see what we can do to improve next time. With that information, we can plan ahead and determine what we will and will not do next year when presented with similar problems.
Sustainability is paramount when it comes to an organization of any kind. Without it, the group would simply fall apart as members left. Keeping a cycle of servant leadership going in our community and team is how we plan to push the Robo Vikes forward for the upcoming years of competition.
As we near the end of our extremely successful season we must prepare to say, “farewell” to the many seniors who brought us so much of this success.
David Yokell will definitely be missed. He has been a Robo Vike all four of his years at Nolan. He served as the Safety Captain during his sophomore year. This year he was the Robot Fabrication Lead Engineer responsible for CAD and he was also a member of the drive team. David plans to attend Missouri S&T where he will study mechanical engineering. David’s calm demeanor had a positive effect on the RoboVikes.
Jack DeRuntz will also be attending Missouri S&T where he will study either computer or mechanical engineering. This was Jack’s first year on the team but he immediately made a strong impact as the person in charge of programming and
control systems. Jack seemed to have knowledge about every part of the robot and was always a calm and positive presence. He was an excellent driver which was key to the team’s success in competition. Together, Jack and David had the best understanding of the design and workings of the robot from a systems engineering point of view.
Eryk Ross will be attending Catholic University in Washington D.C where he will be studying mechanical engineering. This is his third year with the Robo Vikes. He got his
feet wet as a sophomore, but became a major contributor his junior year working on the FTC team. This year Eryk was one of the two most reliable fabricators with skills in milling and on the lathe. He was the pilot on the drive team in San Antonio and at the World Championship in Houston.
Alec Austin will be attending Drake University and studying engineering. Last year he was a key member of the FTC team. This year he and Eryk helped mentor younger students in using the mill and with skills in assembly. He was the pilot on the drive team in Dallas.
Ryon Ruffner will be attending Texas A&M University where he will study engineering. This is his second year with the Robo Vikes. Ryon loves to weld
and has been key in the development of our team’s welding skills. He also contributed with fabrication on the mill and lathe and with assembly. Ryon was in charge of the Pit Crew at all of our competitions.
Other key contributors were Michael Gnatovic (who will attend the University of Utah), Grayson Hutka (University of Texas), Ian Burns (UTA), Cabe Glaze (University of Oklahoma), Kinston Chung (UTA), and Alec Castiglione (Michigan State). Alec coordinated the FLL Qualifying
Meet. Michael, Grayson, Ian, Cabe, Kinston and Alec were all contributors in the fabrication and assembly of the robot. Grayson headed up the building of the battery cart and the robot’s bumpers. James Hill (Southwestern University) and Evan Millender (University of
Oklahoma) were key contributors in editing and putting out our team newsletter each month. Dylan Meynard (TCU) and Chandler Williamson (UTA) were responsible for processing the team’s accounting. Damian Varga (Texas A&M), James Lovering (McPherson University) and Michael Fiore (TCU), who helped with marketing, Danielle Franzen (UTA), who helped with the newsletter and fabrication, Marcos Crane (UTA), who helped with making batteries, and Micah Le (A&M at Blinn-Bryan), who was in charge of shop organization, will be graduating from the Robo Vikes as well.
TTI Inc. is a 47-year-old distributor specialist offering passive, connector, electromechanical and discrete components, and a 2-year sponsor of the Robo Vikes. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, it is known world-wide for its supply chain solutions and extensive product line, including resistors, capacitors, connectors, discretes, potentiometers, trimmers, magnetic and circuit protection components, wire and cable, wire management, identification products, application tools, and electromechanical devices. However, despite this focus on hardware, TTI has been dedicated to helping the Robo Vikes in more ways than tools and robot parts. Each year they have donated $2500 to us in addition to $2500 worth of marketing materials. Last year they gave us banners, shirts, and lanyards. The Robo Vikes also sent several students who were taken on a complimentary tour of TTI’s warehouse. This year, TTI graciously did not request a marketing presentation. As of now, we have yet to decide what to use the marketing funds they donated for, but we will be conscientious in our decision. The Robo Vikes’ thanks go out to TTI Inc.!
On April 19th, the Robo Vikes had the pleasure and honor of attending the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition World Championship in Houston. We qualified for the championship by winning the title of Dallas Regional Winners. All members of the team had the incredible opportunity to attend this championship for the first time. Four students drove to Houston early Wednesday morning to unload all of our equipment and set up for the impending competition. Upon arriving, we were awestruck because we saw over four hundred teams. The venue was massive, housing six separate competition fields, two full size practice fields, and pit space for every team. We quickly got our pit set up and finished repairs so we could start practicing. We were assigned to the Turing division where we competed against 66 other teams. Persevering through many misfortunes on Thursday, we headed back to the hotel a little disappointed with our rank at 64. However, we came back ready to compete Friday morning. Our hopes buoyed all day as we won match after match, ending out the day ranked 5th, with a final win-loss record of 7-3. This put us, again, in the position to be choosing an alliance for playoffs. We came up with a pick-list late that night after much deliberation, going into alliance selection Saturday morning ready to create an alliance equipped to push through playoffs. We formed an alliance with three other teams: 4587 Jersey Voltage, 4468 the Fernbank LINKS, and 5960 the Mighty ROBO-RANGERS. With these amazing teams, we were able to come out victorious through Quarterfinals. Semi-finals were a tough fight against the number 1 ranked alliance. We pushed to a tie-breaker round before finally losing a very close match, knocking us out. In all, we had an amazing time, competing with the best teams in the world. While we may not have won, we had a wonderful time and accomplished many team goals. We had a fantastic year, and learned many new lessons setting us all up for a very successful future. And with that, our competition season has formally come to a close. Now, it is back to off-season and learning new things for next year!
Dear Colleagues and Robo Vikes,
As I still recover from the high that we experienced at the FIRST World Championship in Houston last month, I wanted to fill you in on our experience.
If you’ve been following our season you are aware that our win at the Dallas Regional qualified us to compete at the World Championship in Houston which was held over the course of four days (April 19-22) in Houston, TX, primarily at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Here’s a snapshot of the World Championship. Each day at the competition we were busy from 5:30 (our typical wake up time) until lights out at 10:30 (or later).
Most of the team left school on Wednesday, April 19th, at 7 am. A few went early to unload the robot, its tools, and equipment. They left early enough to be in line at the Convention Center by 9 am for unloading!
On the way down to Houston, we stopped for a planned tour of Texas A&M, both the University and their robotics lab. Here’s a link to their lab. A few students were allowed to drive a couple of their robots!
Finally we arrived to the Convention Center around 3 pm and set up our place in the stands. Students and mentors attended several meetings at the Championship conference. The meetings were centered around technology, sustainability of the team, and developing more diversity on the team. These meetings continued on Thursday and Friday.
On Wednesday, the robot was inspected. We also practiced and highly anticipated Thursday’s first four qualifying rounds.
Our first two matches (Thursday morning) were difficult. The robot was under-performing and in need of a “tune up.” The pit crew and drive team decided to replace the drive modules, our passive gear loader, and the climber winch. It was a major overhaul completed in 3 hours. During our next two matches, the robot and drive team performed at their peak and we just barely came up short, losing both of those matches. By the end of the day Thursday, our match record was 0-4, and we were ranked as low at 62nd out of 67 teams.
Not deterred, the Robo Vikes came out blazing on Friday, winning all six matches in grand fashion and rocketed to 5th place, having been as high as 3rd place before the final matches of the day! (That’s why my hair was dyed blue!)
Friday night we stayed up late scouting the prospective teams to determine what our winning alliance would look like and who would likely be available for us to select.
Saturday began early. We checked out of the hotel, went to prayer service, and arrived at our spot in the stands by 7:10 am. During alliance selections, we chose from the best robots in the world. Our alliance of four robots included three robots from Texas and one from Atlanta, Georgia. Not entirely by coincidence, one of our alliance partners was the same as we had in San Antonio at the Alamo Regional.
Four robots were chosen to allow for the possibility of substitution because only three robots compete on each alliance.
We won the first two matches of the quarterfinal round and the first match of the semifinal round. We lost the second match of the semifinals and to continue to the finals of our subdivision, we had to win the tie breaker match of the semifinals against the number one ranked alliance. It was a close match and the result came down to the last second of the match. Our alliance came up one gear short of the fourth rotor which would have secured our win. If you are familiar with the game, the gear had been retrieved by the pilot, and was being place on the airship as time ran out. That would have been 100 more points, enough to win. So close! Darn it.
As I reflect back on this season I can’t begin to tell you how proud I and all of the mentors are of this team. The kids overcame so much to even qualify for the Championship and it has been a phenomenal season. The team won a regional championship, reached the finals in another regional and won a prestigious Engineering Excellence Award. All of this is on top of making our demobot and launching a newsletter and marketing campaign!
As you plan for next year, keep in mind that a generous donor has given us a $25,000 matching investment. So, every dollar you donate is matched! With our increased outreach activities, and longer competition schedule, this money will surely be appreciated in the long run.
Mr. Robert “Bob” Benkowski, father to student Victoria Benkowski, was a new Robo Vikes Mentor this year, but he was far from inexperienced. Mr. Benkowski received his ME in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University and currently works in biomedical engineering. He is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of his company, DesignPlex Biomedical.
With his expertise, Mr. Benkowski helped the team in areas including fabrication, repair, and design strategy. He is knowledgeable in production, which was helpful in fabrication. Some examples of what he assisted the team in creating was a gear loading mechanism for moving gears at competition, crates for shipping the robot, and a design for a climbing wench to make the robot able to climb at competition. Mr. Benkowski also made the shop safer and more efficient. One day he went around the shop and fixed damaged machines and tools including the bandsaw and belt sander, making them safer to use and effective. He was also innovative with design materials. Expanded PVC pipe was used for prototyping and on the sides of the climber. When asking team leader David Yokell how this material was more useful than what has been used in the past, he said it is because “it’s lightweight but strong, and it’s also easy to use.” Another new material Mr. Benkowski suggested was a sort of sandwich of foam between two aluminum sheets, used as the electronics tray. Similar to Yokell’s statement, programmer Carson FitzGibbon said this material was a great addition to the design because it is lightweight.
Mr. Benkowski is a brilliant, hardworking, enthusiastic mentor who has helped the team in fabrication, safety, efficiency, and design. The team thanks him for all his work and hopes to continue learning from him!
Victoria Benkowski is a highly talented and dedicated member of the Robo Vikes. A very good friend has described Victoria as an “adventurous” person. Another close friend described Victoria as a “hard working person who is also determined not only to have fun, but to make sure the team is successful.” Successful accurately characterizes the Robo Vikes overall year: 2017 Dallas Regional Champions, participants in the Alamo Regional and competitors in the World Championship. Victoria attended these competitions and described her experience as awesome. She was an active asset to the everyone as she was often found interacting with other teams, taking iconic pictures, and aiding other teammates when needed. On top of her tireless dedication to the overall team, Victoria was highly active in the media aspect. She played a major role in the making of the Chairman’s Award, not only by presenting it, but also by producing the video for it. Victoria, an avid photographer, has produced many marvelous photographs and videos and contributes to the team by sharing this talent. Her creativity shines through all her actions and she is always willing to help others. On her experience throughout this robotics season, Miss Benkowski said, “It was so cool to see all our hard work throughout the season pay off and all of us rally and come together both as a team and as friends.”
On their way to the World Championships in Houston, the Robo Vikes made a quick stop at College Station to tour Texas A&M University. They received a tour of the campus and its facilities and also received a history lesson on some of A&M’s oldest traditions. In addition to that, they visited the Texas A&M robotics lab. The Robo Vikes received a tour and had the opportunity to talk to graduate students about their recent work. The projects they were working on involved coming up with practical solutions through the use of robots to real world problems, many of which involved disaster relief. The robots in the lab ranged from land vehicles to air drones to even robotic boats to save people in danger of drowning. They explained in detail to the team all the problems that their robots were solving. A lot of the work they did was more on the software of the robots, rather than the mechanics. This was very interesting. Many of the Robo Vikes are involved with the mechanics of the robot and rarely get to interact or learn about the programming side of the robot. It was great exposure to learn the many capabilities of some complex code. The Robo Vikes were able to drive some of the A&M robots and learn more about one of the problems they were solving. Special thanks to Mrs. Fitzgibbon to setting this tour up!
FIRST Robotics competitions are organized as qualifying rounds and then playoffs.
During qualifying each team is randomly put on a 3 team alliance and that alliance plays others to try and reach the playoff round. At the Dallas Regional the RoboVikes were ranked 4th at the end of the qualifying rounds. All teams ranked 1-8 earn the right to be alliance captains and pick other teams to be on their 3 team alliance. The selections are made based on scouting during the qualifying rounds to determine which teams best complement the skills of the alliance captain. The playoffs consist of quarter-final, semi-final and final rounds. The RoboVikes selected team 2468 Team Appreciate as their first alliance partner and for their second pick they chose team 5417 Eagle Robotics. All three team were excited to work together to make it to the finals.
Team 2468 adequately scored gears and steadily climbed while 5417 scored several gears, played intense defense, and climbed consistently as well. After the selection was made the three scouting captain decided for the teams to meet at the RoboVikes pit to consider possible strategies. Coaches, mentors, and students shared ideas and discussed the best way to approach opposing teams and came up with a stellar strategy. The teams executed this strategy with precision while changing it to best counteract each new opposing alliance. Together the alliance made it to the finals and won the Dallas Regional. Everyone in the three teams helped each other in various ways such as perfecting code for autonomous, sharing tools, and lending hands when needed, etc. Throughout the matches the three teams supported each other in the stands. It was an exciting and fun experience to bond with other teams while trying to reach a common goal. After all the matches were over, the award ceremony began and we enjoyed our victory together after receiving our medals by making a tunnel for the other teams and their members. Despite winning medals, our experience of working with other dedicated teams was the true prize. After all, “the joy is in the journey.”