Robo Vikes Kick-Off Eve Reception

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The Robo Vikes held their first ever Alumni Reception and Kick-off Eve on January 5th, 2018 in the Nolan Library. The event brought together current Robo Vike team members, Robo Vike alums, donors, coaches, mentors and parents.  There were about 10 alums in attendance along with about 30 team members.

Team coach Ray Depta kicked off the evening with a prayer.  Then team mentor Mike Crance talked about how to prepare for the season based on his years of experience in guiding robotics teams. One of the teams donors, Marc Meadows of Meadows Analysis & Design, gave a speech to help give some guidance to the team in order to prepare for the robot build season, stressing the importance of listening to all team members and not just the loudest voice.

IMG_20180105_203126380The team then took some of the alumni for a tour of the shop and some of the new equipment.  They later went back to the library and spent more time catching up with each other, telling stories of past robotics events and getting some advice from the alumni.  The evening closed out with several team members and alumni going to the gym to play basketball.

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The reception was put together by team moms: Consuelo Araujo, Paula DeRuntz and Suzie Fitzgibbon. Mrs. Araujo said, “Every year the game changes for all teams involved in FIRST robotics.  The game is kept a secret until the game reveal or kickoff is announced around the first Saturday of January.   We wanted a way to both give the team a time to relax and bring in some alumni to bring their experience to help current team members.” Mrs. DeRuntz added, “ We also wanted to take the alums and show them some changes to the shop since they were here at school.  That is why Nolan was the logical place to hold this event.”  

The reception had its genesis in an idea mentor Kevin LaPerriere had to get the alumni in and have a fun activity with the current team.  At about the same time the team moms were wanting the put together an event the night before the kick-off and also to include the alumni.  The two ideas were combined and the Kick-off Eve reception was born.  Mrs. Fitzgibbon echoed the sentiments of the other planners, saying, We see this as an event that we can have every year.  This will be a great opportunity for the alums to catch up and come back and give back to the team. Also we will have the donors in so they can be involved and meet the team and our alumni.”  Many current Robo Vike members also helped by contacting the alumni and inviting them to the reception.

The next morning the team held the Kick-off event in the Nolan Hartnett Arena.  The alumni who came in for the reception also showed up and helped to mentor the team once the planning for the season began. Mrs. Araujo said, “It was a great start to what we see as being a great tradition for this team.  We have gotten some great feedback and could not have asked for a better evening.  Based on that we are already planning for next year!  And we are looking at possibly other events throughout the year.  It’s such a great family and we need to have these reunions to get everyone together!”

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Patron Saint of Robo Vikes – St. Patrick

It was April 2017 and the Robo Vikes were in San Antonio for their next regional competition. The team decided to go to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for a prayer service to give thanks for a rare win at the Dallas Regional back in March and for continued success there at the Alamo Regional.

Mr. Ray Depta, head coach of the Robo Vikes, spoke with Fr. Mario Marzocchi, pastor of St. Joseph’s, who made special arrangements to open the church at 7:15 a.m. to accommodate the team. So, despite the early start after a late night prepping for the competition, the team went to church for the service. Scripture was read and Father Marzocchi gave a nice talk about St. Jose Sanchez Del Rio, a young man martyred for refusing to renounce his faith. Father pointed out how St. Jose was about the same age as many on the team and how he was impressed about how so many young people took the time to come to church. Several parents thanked Father after the service and he again expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the team‘s show of faith.

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Robo Vikes in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

After they left St. Joseph’s, the team had to lug their bags and some heavy pieces of equipment for about 4 long blocks to the convention center. No one griped or complained, as they felt the service was well worth the effort. It seems that the prayers paid off as the team had another successful outing. The Robo Vikes came in as a very close finalist at the Alamo Regional and also won a prestigious award – the Engineering Excellence Award.

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 The team was inspired by Father Mario’s talk and reflected on what a great year that they had. It had been the best year ever for the Robo Vikes, and they realized that there must have been some help from above to accomplish so much in such a short time. They realized that perhaps Father Mario’s talk about saints was not a coincidence. The team wanted to find a way to give thanks for their year, so they decided to adopt a patron saint. They considered several saints including Saint Jose Sanchez Del Rio (the subject of Father Mario’s talk), Saint Patrick, and Saint Albert the Great. A vote was taken and the team decided on Saint Patrick, the patron saint of engineers. St. Patrick converted many people to Catholicism while in Ireland, often used shamrocks to explain the Trinity, and taught the Irish how to make arches of lime mortar instead of dry masonry. St. Patrick was known for being humble and pious, and his trust in God was so strong that he feared nothing – not even death. The trust in God reflected how the team felt during this amazing season.

 

 

 

 

Adopting St. Patrick as a patron saint was a great way for the team to incorporate faith into their program. They are also looking to take a banner of him to future competitions to lead the team into battle and to show others that the team is faith based. Here is an excerpt of St. Patrick’s poem of faith and trust in God called “The Breastplate”:

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

Here is a link to more information about St. Patrick: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

 And a link to St. Patrick’s engineering background: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/saint-patrick-structural-engineer-tom-van-laan/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power UPdate

The game for the 2018 FIRST robotics competition, Power Up, has been revealed.

This year’s game consists of placing power cubes onto the Switches and the Scale to acquire points for every second of ownership. To gain ownership of the Scale, your alliance’s amount of cubes must outweigh the cubes on the opposing side of the scale. Alliances fight for ownership of the Switches and Scale for the entirety of the match in order to outscore the other.

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Like most FRC games, the first 15 seconds of the match are fully autonomous, meaning that the robot can only move and preform tasks without the driver directly controlling it. During this time, frame points are doubled for ownership of the Scale and Switch. The Vault is used to activate power-ups that give alliances an advantage in the game. To activate the Vault power-ups (Force, Levitate, and Boost), the alliance must send Power Cubes into their own exchange center where the human players will directly take them into the Vault to begin preparing the power-up.

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The Boost power-up doubles the points gained per second of either the scale switch or both depending on the mount of power cubes put into the vault. The Force power up grants the user free ownership of the Scale, Switch, or both for 10 seconds depending on the amount of Power Cubes put into the vault. Unlike force and boost, Levitate requires 3 Power Cubes to activate. It grants the alliance one free climb at the end of the match, adding to the max of 3 climbs. The Vault also gives an additional 5 points per Power Cube added into it.

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During the last 30 seconds of the match, players are allowed to climb onto a 13 inch rung above the scale to earn an additional 30 points per robot above 12 inches in the air. The team that end the match with the most points wins and defeats the boss. The Robo Vikes have been working day and night thinking of strategies and robot designs for this year’s game. They hope to have these six weeks of endless work pay off in their favor.

The New Equipment in the Shop

The Robo Vikes are ecstatic to say that the donations and contributions from last year and offseason sponsors have provided the team with new and extremely  beautiful machines. We are excited to start off build season off with topnotch equipment!

The majority of the machines in our shop are now digitally programmable and have safety features our other machines did not have. The new mill has an automatic spindle, an automatic in and out take, and variable speed control.  It also has Digital Readout (DRO) and power feed. This allows us to digitally align our measurements for the x, y and z axis. Another piece of equipment we received is a new lathe.  The lathe has many features such as DRO and an automatic cooling system. The lathe is used to shape metals in to cylindrical objects such as axles.  We also received a new drill press and band saw. The band saw  and drill press are able to cut/drill wood and metal. Two other saws we received  are the chop saw and saw stop. These saws are specifically for wood. They are incredible machines that are very efficient.  They are great for prototyping during our build season and for off season projects. Other donated machines include the press break and a twoton arbor press. These tools are great for bending metal. The press break is designed to bend metal to different degrees. The arbor press is really useful to press fit parts together.  Our new welding machine  is an AC/DC – it uses alternating or direct currents. The welder can be used in a variety of welds: mig, tig, or stick. We use mig and tig on aluminum,  and mig and stick on steel. These machines have and will help the Robo Vikes tremendously in the next few years. We thank our donors for all of their helpful contributions to the Robo Vikes!

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Mark Stranczek: Mentor

Mark Stranczek is a kind man who became a Robo Vike mentor two years ago so he could help his son who’d just joined the robotics team.

Mr. Stranczek develops commercial and industrial lighting. He chose this career because he started in product development in consumer lighting, which evolved into his current job.

He enjoys being a mentor, helping the students with woodwork and how to use tools safely. The thing he likes most about being a mentor is helping the kids, watching them learn and solve problems. He believes that working with the team has made him a better person by learning to work with different kinds of kids.

The students think he is a great mentor. Christina Cross says he is always helpful, he knows how to use all the tools, and he reminds us to be safe. Nate Schmidt says he explains how to do things really well and is really careful on how to explain certain tools. Will Bice says he knows a lot about machines and how to take care of them. Alejandro Araujo says he’s helpful in the shop and he helps simplify our problems.

The Robo Vikes thank you, Mr. Stranczek!

Valentine’s Day Tech Gift Guide

Have a Valentine who has everything? Someone who has an incredibly difficult taste? Try buying one of these tech wonders for the gift of a lifetime. 

Wired Micro USB Car Charger

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You’ll never have to fight over the charger again because this Wired Micro USB Car Charger ($15, originally $30) has two slots to charge two phones.

Levitation Floating Globe

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If your Valentine is interested in geography, then the Levitation Floating Globe ($36) is perfect for them.

Sound-Activated Light Blocks

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You could buy your Valentine the Sound-Activated Light Blocks ($30), which are definitely not Legos, that he could put on their desk at work.

 

Moleskine Smart Writing Set

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For the artistic partner, this Moleskine Smart Writing Set ($199) is actually magic. When they write in the notebook, his words or drawings will move onto their phone automatically. It transfers their exact handwriting, too, so it’s like having a real notepad on their iPhone.

 

Phone Storage Workout Bottle

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Exercising on the go with your phone has never been easier with this Phone Storage Workout Bottle ($15).  

Apple AirPods

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They are just like headphones , but these Apple AirPods are $159 and they aren’t connected by cumbersome wires.

Shibaful Case

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Maybe the outdoors is more your Valentine’s thing. Described as the world’s “first lawn iPhone case,” the Shibaful case is made with fibers that look and feel a bit like the grass in a park. Only costs $49 and everyone will marvel at his/her’s excellent taste. 

 

Coach’s Corner

Wow!  This Spring Semester has gotten off to a fantastic start.  It began on January 5th with the annual Robo Vike Family Kick-off Reception in the Nolan Library.  There were close to 60 people at the event.  There were at least eight alumni including Kyle Griffith, Garreth and Galen Tran, Antonio Araujo, Eryk Ross, Micah Le, David Yokell and Jack DeRuntz.

A good number of our current students, their parents, coaches and mentors made up the rest of the group.  Marc Meadows, a professional engineer gave a brief inspirational speech.  He reminded us of the importance of the design process.  The parents and alumni were given a tour of the shop with all of the new machinery that has been donated.  Photos that depict team history have been posted on the shop walls too.  Hopefully they will inspire more students to want to join the Robo Vikes.

On January 6, the Robo Vikes hosted eighteen other teams to watch the live feed of the 2018 FIRST, First Robotics Competition game, Power Up.   It looks to be an exciting game with a vertical element to it.  A lot of strategy will be involved.  The team went from there straight to work in classroom B-17.  Mentor Mike Crance did a fantastic job of leading the team through the process of thoroughly learning the rules, and devising strategies for the game.  Over 45 students and adults were present for most of the day to participate with this process.  The students are currently working on the robot design and have chosen a drive train which they have designed with CAD. They are currently discerning which method of placing the power cube to use for the robot.

We are also close to completing the full installation of our new fabrication equipment that was generously donated to us.  Mentor Kevin LaPerriere has been working diligently  to assure each machine is fully tooled and operational.  He hopes to begin training the students over the course of the build season.

Our other big effort is fund raising.  The students have been calling and emailing potential financial supporters.  Their goal is to raise $25,000 to be matched by our generous donor.

The Robo Vikes are excited as we jump into build-season, and we thank all the parents, mentors, and donors who support our students. Thank you!

Ray Depta

Coach’s Corner

Hello, Everyone!

Wow!  The shop has been very active this fall.  This is the most ambitious off-season in our team’s history.  The students have been working on five different projects: an air cannon, an arm grabbing mechanism, a ball shooter that includes a hopper and a ball feeding mechanism, and two drive trains.  Kevin Laperierre has been extremely dedicated and has finally achieved workable status on our new CNC router.  The students were able to use it to cut out parts that they had designed using Solidworks.

The students in the CAD class are getting very proficient at using Solidworks.  The marketing group has already had several marketing meetings with companies like Frank Neill, McKim Creed and West Monroe.  The students gained valuable experience getting up in front of adults and giving a presentation. Overall, the students are learning, collaborating and building confidence in themselves and one another for the build season in January.

I want to thank the generosity of the parents who have all pitched in with supervision to allow all of this to happen.  The spring will be even more demanding, but it is obvious that the parents are dedicated to their student and the team success.  I would also like to thank Mike Crance, Benny Araujo, Chris Eggleston, Kevin Laperierre, Bob Benkowski and Ron Clapp for all of their time spent mentoring our students on their projects.  Our team would not function the way it does without their tremendous dedication.

Nolan hosted the BEST Robotics competition on October 22.  We will be competing at the Woodlands on November 11.  Finally, we will be hosting the FLL (FIRST Lego League) competition here on December 9.  This will be a huge team effort requiring help from parents, students and friends.

Go Robo Vikes!!

Ray Depta

Mentor Spotlight: Mr. Chris Eggleston

Mentor Chris Eggleston has been a part of the team for 2 years, and his expertise in design has made him a huge asset to the students’ success. He has a bachelor of science in civil engineering and a master of engineering in structural engineering which he earned from Texas A&M and UT Arlington. He applied these degrees to become a project engineer at Frank W. Neal & Associates. Chris is available most days for help and is very committed in helping the Robo Vikes succeed.

With his help we have been able to avoid many errors in our robots design. He is very proficient in CAD and through his consultation we are able to learn and utilize CAD more effectively.   Even though he hasn’t been around as long as some of the other mentors but, he has inserted himself into our program well. Without the time and effort he puts into the team we would not be as proficient when it comes to design and a robot’s planning. We thank Chris for making time to work with us and hope he continues to guide us in the future.

West Monroe Donor Spotlight

West Monroe is a business and technology consulting company. Peter Todd, the father of team member Christian Todd, is a health care consultant there. Most of the technology consultants at this company have a background in engineering, which helped motivate them to set up a meeting with us and hopefully donate to us. This company serves clients from all over the world such as companies  from Europe and Latin America. The consultants are role models for us and an inspiration to aspire for greatness in our future projects.

When we arrived at the meeting, the office was extremely professional. We stood in awe, then went into the conference room. There were only a few people at first, but before long it felt like the entire branch came to watch our presentation.

During our presentation we learned that most of the consultants were extremely interested in engineering. They were amazed that we had a CNC router and knew how to properly use it. The consultants were extremely interested in our program as shown by their numerous questions about our projects and how we accomplish them.

Due to their interest in our program we are hoping to recieve a donation from them. We will always appreciate the experience and the knowledge that an engineering background opens many careers beyond the engineering field itself.

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