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Spring cleaning life hacks

There are tons of helpful tricks that can help make spring cleaning fast and easy. Here are three helpful tips.

The first tip is that you can use your dishwasher for far more than just dishes. Once every few months, toss some of the following into the dishwasher for a deep clean: contact lens cases, hair brushes, makeup brushes, pet dishes, plastic kids toys, refrigerator shelves, soap dishes, tweezers, various knobs and pulls, and even your shower-head (if it’s removable). thing

The second tip is to dust with dryer sheets. They are a cheap substitute for more expensive electrostatic cloths and work just as well. Lone socks that have lost their mates, when worn as a mitten, are excellent for dusting tight areas and Venetian blinds. Remember to work top to bottom to avoid wasting time. dryer sheet

The last tip concerns washing windows. For a quick solution, mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water or add one teaspoon of mild dish-washing liquid to several gallons of water. But time your cleaning wisely: Sunshine will cause your windows to dry too quickly, leaving streaks. window clean

These are the life hacks to help make your spring cleaning easy and fast.


Student Spotlight: Dan Luong

Dan Luong joined Nolan Catholic High School’s robotics team, the Robo Vikes, his senior year. He joined because he wanted to get a hands-on experience in engineering before he goes to college.

As a Robo Vike, Dan is part of the manufacturing team, the assembly team and hopes to be part of the drive team at the Alamo Regional in San Antonio.

Dan has only gone to two competitions, but he has gained valuable experiences. He went to the Robo Remix at the Woodlands, and the Dallas Regional the first weekend in March. His favorite competition was the Dallas Regional because of the of the high caliber teams the Robo Vikes got to compete against and with. He also loved being part of the pit crew and working with his friends to repair the robot. His favorite moment at the competition, however, was driving the robot for one match. Although his experience with driving the robot was uneventful due to the drivetrain not working properly, he says that he still enjoyed it.

Dan has a lot of things he enjoys doing while being a part of the Robo Vikes. He said his favorite memory with the team would have to be the last day of build season for the Power Up game because it gave him a sense of accomplishment. He also loves it when someone on the team buys everyone Mucho Mangoes. His proudest achievement was when we finished the off season robot and when we completed this year’s game robot. Dan’s favorite thing to do at the shop is learning how to use new machines and fabricating parts with team mentor Kevin LaPerriere. While not at the shop, Dan plays on the Nolan Catholic Tennis team and likes to play video games with his friends.

To anyone interested in joining the Robo Vikes, Dan says that being part of the Robo Vikes is fun while simultaneously helping foster leadership skills and giving people a first-hand experience in engineering and S.T.E.M.


Coach’s Corner


The Robo Vikes have been a busy group these past several weeks!  On February 20, the students bagged the robot just a few minutes before 12:00 EDT which is the FIRST deadline for all teams to stop building their robot.  The team built an amazing robot which has the ability to draw in a cube, elevate a shooting mechanism and then shoot the cube over 6 feet into the air so that it can land on the scale in the Power Up game this season.  This is the most complex robot that our students have ever built.

This is the first year that we have had several students who were trained in our new CAD class.  The students learned how to use the Solidworks CAD program.  This is also the first year that our students were able to fabricate parts cut from our new CNC router.

The day after Bag & Tag, about 12 students went to the Fort Worth History and Science Museum to help promote Engineering Week and S.T.E.M.   The students demonstrated the robot to hundreds of elementary students as well as assisted young students in using miniature robots.  It was a great day.

Robot Reveal Video – Click Here

Assistant Coach Benny Araujo and team President Alejandro Araujo have spent a lot of time and effort reaching out to Rockhouse, a school for handicapped students.  The students came to visit our school and see our shop.  The Araujos are working to start a small engineering program for these students.

The team competed in the Dallas Regional at the Irving Convention Center on March 2-4.  The Robo Vikes ended up ranked 15th out of 60 teams.  We ended up being the 8th seed alliance captain.  We competed against two world class robots and unfortunately lost in the elimination round, but not without a fight.  Our alliance was ahead for most of the second match before finally being out-scored in the last seconds.  The drive team of Alejandro Aruajo, Will Bice, Nate Schmidt and Dan Luong competed hard.  Christina Cross was the Pit Master.

Our Chairmen’s Team, headed by Victoria Benkowski learned a lot from this first regional.  Jordan Schwartz headed up the scouting guided by Adrianna Araujo.  They also learned a lot in preparation for our next regional.

The students learned a lot from competition.  They plan to redesign our grabbing mechanism and to switch from belt drive to chain drive.  This is an ambitious undertaking.  Go Robo Vikes!

I want to give a shout out to all of the parents and mentors who have given so generously of their time.  Mike Crance, Kevin Laperriere, Chris Eggleston, Benny Araujo, Mark Stranczek, Ron Clapp, Antonio Aruajo and Bob Benkowski devote hundreds of hours in the evenings.  I also want to thank Terry and Tracy Cross for driving the trailer with our robot and equipment back and forth to the convention center.  I also want to thank Julian Ermish, Liz Dominguez, Suzie Fitzgibbons, Conseuelo Aruajo, and Gilberto and Claudia Morales for all the time they have spent supervising and chaperoning for the team.

Next stop is San Antonio and the Alamo Regional April 4-7.  We hope to be very competitive.  Go Robo Vikes!

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Bag-and-Tag: the night all teams must stop work on their robot, bag it up, and not touch it again until competition. After 6 weeks of hard work, it was finally the last day to work on the robot.

The Robo Vikes spent the day finalizing the robot and practicing as much as they could. They practiced by setting up field objects and driving the robot around, shooting cubes into the top scale. It was satisfying fr the team to see the final project come to fruition. They also saw ways to to simplify and improve the robot, such as adding pins to hold the axles in place in the wheels instead of spacers and bolts.

After putting on final touches and practicing hard, the Robo Vikes bagged their robot and were happy to celebrate a good build season.

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Robotics Museum Trip



The Robo Vikes love to take every opportunity to make an impact on younger kids to spread awareness and excitement about STEM programs, and they were able to do so on this museum trip.

The Robo Vikes took a trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History to teach local kids about robotics and show them this years robot. They left school early to set up their stand for kids to come learn about robotics. The robot for this year’s game was set up so kids could watch it shoot out powercubes. All the kids were fascinated by the robot and wanted to know how it worked. The Robo Vikes also set up robotic arms for the kids to play with and learn how they work. At the robotic arm station, the kids were able to control a miniature robot on their own. Every kid loved this because of the arms easy controls which made it easy and fun to use for the kids. The kids used the arm to move around several blocks we put around the table. Whenever a kid had trouble with the arms someone was always there to help them figure it out. Kids from schools stopped by all day, and every single one was interested in the team and their robot. The team talked to the kids about FIRST robotics and answered any questions they had about the robot and the Robo Vike’s program. They were able to introduce the youth to robotics and inspire them to join their own FRC team one day.



More about Saint Patrick, the Robo Vikes’ patron saint

The Robo Vikes had many saints to choose as their team patron saint, but ultimately ended up choosing St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers.


St. Patrick was born to a romanized family in Britain. He never actively practiced his faith even though his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest. At the age of 16, he was taken away from his father by Irish raiders and carried into slavery in Ireland where he spent six bleak years as a herdsman. During that time in captivity, St. Patrick learned to grow and cherish his faith. He claims that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and gave him the opportunity to be forgiven of his sins and convert to Christianity. After having a dream that a ship was ready for him to escape his masters, he fled and found passage back to Britain where he was reunited with his family.

Although St. Patrick is well known for driving snakes out of Ireland, it is also known that he was an instrumental part in the initial construction of the Irish clay churches in the 5th century. St. Patrick has also been credited for teaching the Irish to build arches of lime mortar rather than dry masonry. It was because of these achievements that led him to be not only the patron saint of Ireland, but also the patron saint for engineers.


Robo Vikes Kick-Off Eve Reception


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.


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!”

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.

St Joseph San Antonio

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.



 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:

 And a link to St. Patrick’s engineering background:










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.

Power Cube

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.


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!

stranzcek3JET JTM-949EVS/230 Electronic Variable Speed Vertical Milling Machine 230V 3Ph - 690643321557, Jet GH-1860ZX With Newall DP700 DRO With Taper Attachment and Collet Closer