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.
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 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.
This off-season a small team of students and I worked on designing and building a shooter for last year’s game. We were able to develop a lot of new skills that will be very useful for the 2018 season. First, we spent some time doing research on good shooter teams from last season and got inspiration for our design from team 254 (who was very successful at shooting at last year’s game). To find the optimal angle and revolutions per minute required to shoot the ball from our desired distance, we had to do some calculus. We then began prototyping, but had little success in the first couple of iterations. We had to keep tweaking our design to find the best compression on the ball. Compression was one of the most important things we had to figure out while prototyping. After many different iterations we were able to find the best compression, and our prototype performed very well. Next we started sketching the final design on a CAD software named Solidworks. Everyone on the team had little to no experience with this software, but by the end of the design we had all become very familiar with it.
Once we finished the final design we started building. We were able to take some of the more complex parts we designed and quickly machine them using our latest piece of equipment, the CNC router. We are still in the process of assembly, but once we finish, we will start testing to see areas where we may be able to improve. Overall this project was a great learning experience that really helped prepare us for this upcoming season.
Both in their first year as RoboVikes, John and Julian look for their niche among the team. I asked them some questions to learn more about how they are fitting in as first-years.
First question: “What made you want to join the team?” John replied, “I want to become an engineer.” John works hard daily to fulfill his goal and knows what it takes to get there. Julian said: “I wanted to learn about robotics and engineering.” Julian is very observant and curious, great traits to have as a Robo Vike.
The next two questions were very similar, “How useful are you?” and, “What do you do on the team?” John came back with a very well-rounded response: “I am very useful when it comes to marketing and pneumatics. For what I do, I recruit people to join (mostly his own friends), make marketing presentations, and as of right now, I am helping complete the t-shirt cannon. Julian said that he helps “find things”, during competitions: “I do field reset.”
Final question: “What do you like about the team?” John says, “I love that we learn about engineering and my friends on the team.” Julian says, “I like learning about about robots.” Learning is an important goal of the Robo Vikes, and even as a first-year member you can learn a lot!
The Computer Numerical Control Router, also known as a CNC Router, is a computer-controlled cutting machine similar to the hand held router used for cutting various hard materials, such as wood, composites, aluminium, steel, plastics, and foams. Recently the RoboVikes received their first CNC Router during the summer of 2017. This CNC Router was a Veox brand VR-5050 model, that has been managed by the RoboVikes mentor Kevin LaPerriere and is intended to assist in the assembly of parts for this year’s competitive robot in January 2018.
The CNC Router cuts out shapes and holes following the directions of the entered code and design from a nearby computer. With this new piece of tech at their disposal the RoboVikes have increased production of desired parts during their construction period.
The new CNC Router has helped prepare the RoboVikes this year with off-season projects such as a shooter, which includes a feeder & hopper, a T-shirt cannon, and a drive train for the robot. An aluminum ramp for the shooter project and some of the frame work for the robot’s drive train were created using this machine. The RoboVikes are incredibly thankful for this donation and appreciate the contribution to the Nolan Catholic Robotics program.
If you are interested in joining the Robo Vikes talk to Mr. Depta, who is the coach of the robotics team. Currently we are meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on announced Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. At these meetings, we are working on off- season projects that include a ball shooter, a t-shirt cannon, two drive trains, and an articulating arm. Anyone is welcome to come for as long or short as they would like to help out.
The robotics team offers many ways to help. The team needs members for CAD, marketing, website design, newsletter writers, business, media, design, fabrication, and assembly. The team also does outreach by helping some of the feeder schools with their First Lego League (FLL) teams, attending Engineering Week at The Fort Worth Museum of Science and Industry and UTA Research Institutes. Robotics team graduates have gone on to major in medicine, business, and liberal arts as well as engineering.
Being in robotics also opens doors for college scholarship money, and it looks good on a resume.
Our main form of communication for meetings and projects is robovikes4206.slack.com. The best way to join the team is to come and be as involved as you can. The more you put in, the more you get out!
Looking back on my Freshman year, it could not have been better! Many Freshman think that Robo Vikes will be too hard or complicated for them or that they are not smart enough, I would say that is incorrect. Last year, I was the only Freshman in the Engineering Two/Three class. Success is all about mindset. Robo Vikes has something for everyone! As a freshman, or new student to Robo Vikes, find what interests you and follow your passion. Robo Vikes is much bigger than motors, wires, and gadgets; it has many components such as marketing, media, business, outreach and fabrication. All of these components are part of the bigger vision and mission of Robo Vikes.
Robo Vikes will give you opportunities that you would never have expected. I came into Robo Vikes wanting a challenge, and wanting to learn. Our teachers, Dr. Scheer and Mr. Depta, told me to jump right in and not to be afraid of the boys. They are outstanding teachers that will challenge and empower you while standing beside you. We are also blessed with mentors from different companies that dedicate their time and knowledge to the team. Who would have thought that a Varsity Cheerleader would be welding, lathing, and milling metal parts for Robo Vikes? When I first joined Robo Vikes, I was afraid of not knowing what to do or of doing something wrong. That fear quickly went away. As a team, we worked together and operated like a family. The guys on the team were like my brothers. The teachers and mentors were like parents. All of us continued to refine our skills and learn from each other. This past season we won the Dallas Regional Competition, placed second in the Alamo Regional, and made it all the way to semifinals in our division at the World Competition. We may have won at these events, but most importantly, we learned invaluable skills and forged friendships that will last a lifetime.
If I were to give you a guide for being a Robo Vike, it would go something like this:
Do not be afraid!
Get involved! Try something new or invest your time in one of the many components- marketing, media, outreach, etc.
Challenge yourself beyond what you think you can do!
Be willing to learn, follow instruction, as well as lead when needed.
Get ready to grow and have more fun than you can even imagine!
Robo Vikes is an outstanding world-class team! We work hard and the payoff is great!!!
Even in the hot Texas summer heat the Robo Vikes were hard at work; 20 students, mentors, and other volunteers were moving, lifting, sweeping, organizing, and staying hydrated. A suggestion from one student, Matthew Ross, was to “get a pool to help power some turbines whenever power goes out, practice for the inevitable FIRST water game, and use to cool off on days like this”.
On Saturday, July 29th, the Robo Vikes gathered to move everything out of the shop, clean everything, and move everything back in in an organized fashion.The goal is to not have to spend time looking for parts or equipment they cannot find, not spend money buying that which they could not find, and instead save more money and have more time to work on the robot.
The Robo Vikes are determined to always keep improving and build on the success of last season, and with their work ethic they are sure to succeed.
At the end of the school year, the Robo Vikes were invited to attend the Indiana Robotics Invitational (IRI), a competition held in Indianapolis on July 14-15. About 70 elite robotics teams were invited for outstanding performances in FIRST Steamworks. The Robo Vikes were honored and excited to have been chosen to compete.
The competition was the same game as at the FIRST Robotics Competition, where the robots had to place gears to make rotors spin and shoot fuel (balls) into the boiler. One reason the Robo Vikes were invited was for their exemplary ability to place gears and get rotors turning, but on the first day of competition, things did not go as planned. After adding new programming on top of the wear and tear from performing in a few too many matches, the robot broke down. Despite this setback, the Robo Vikes, as usual, did not give up. Luckily the host school had a machine shop, so the team worked hard to repair and replace parts. They got the bot up and running again, and ultimately placed 22nd. They were in the top half of a large field of phenomenal teams, an impressive feat.
Though they tried not to show it, it was an emotional time for the recently graduated seniors, as this was their last competition. But any competition that sells fresh Indiana corn has got to be a great way to end a season!