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The Chairman’s Team- 2019

The Chairman’s award is the most prestigious award available to a First Robotics team. According to FIRST, the award was “created to keep the central focus of FIRST Robotics Competition on the ultimate goal of transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encouraging more of today’s youth to become scientists, engineers, and technologists.”

To win the Chairman’s Award, a team must submit a 10,000 character essay, answer 13 questions with 500 characters each, create a 3 minute long video, present a 7 minute presentation, and answer questions for 5 minutes based on the outreach the team performs yearly and within the past 5 years.

The goal of the Chairman’s Award is not to win, it is to better your community with STEM, and bring attention to how important STEM is.

This year, Team 4206 applied for the Chairman’s award at the Plano and Dallas Districts. We won district in Dallas, and were able to compete well in Austin. Lead by Chairman’s lead John Conlin, under the mentorship of Benny Araujo and Julia Ermish, this year’s Chairman’s Team worked December through April to create the best application in the team’s history. This was made possible in part by the rest of the Chairman’s Team, consisting of Brenden Ewert, Alex Alvarado, Will Birbeck, and Paul Capps. I would also like to thank our parents, coaches, mentors, and the people who we help, for without all of you, we would not have succeeded this year.

With the expansion of STEM 360, our outreach plan of spreading STEM in all directions and thus strengthening the core of the team. As part of STEM 360, the Robo Vikes reach DOWN to younger generations, UP to alumni, OUT to mentors and sponsors, and ACROSS the community to spread the FIRST message. This year STEM 360 was fulfilled with the finished design of the IDEA (Integrated Design for Engineering and Arts) Building, where we will be able to grow our outreach exponentially. I am confident that we will be able to achieve success even greater than we have received this year.



Every FRC competition in FIRST Robotics includes not only a Robot game but we there are also several other awards an FRC team can compete for. One of these awards is the Chairman´s Award, which requires a presentation, an essay, and a video about the team and its outreach. The FIRST website states, “The Chairman’s Award is the most prestigious award at FIRST, it honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST.” This was the first time ever for the Robo Vikes to win the District Chairman’s award.

The Robo Vikes were represented at Chairman’s by John Conlin, Alex Alvarado and Brenden Ewert. The team presented our program of STEM 360 for promoting STEM in all directions to accommodate for the whole 360 degrees of our human environment and will culminate in our IDEA (Integated Design for Engineering and Arts) Building due to open next year in January. A feedback form from the judges stated, “The STEM 360 approach is extremely comprehensive and inclusive. Your team is doing a great job at spreading FIRST and STEM.” John Conlin, the Chairman’s lead, said, “I have been planning for Chairman´s since 2018, and every single action I have done in robotics has been a step to making our dream into reality. I never expected to win Chairman´s at district, as it requires several years of outreach and strategy, and we compete against the best of the best FRC teams at competition. As I said before, I will lead my team to victory, but the goal of Chairman´s is not to win, it is to spread STEM to the community. I meant to lead our team into becoming better people, and I believe we won Chairman´s because the judges truly saw how good we, the Robo Vikes are. I am so grateful that I was able to lead us to Austin, and I could not have done it without all of your prayers, help, and support.”

Going to Austin!
There are two ways to go to next level of competition: 1. Win the robotics competition 2. Win Chairman´s. The Chairman’s award earned the team a spot at the District Championship in Austin. We are bringing one of our best robots ever and have a good chance to advance in the game as well as Chairman’s. Please pray for and wish the team luck as we go for another visit at the Wold Championships in Houston!

Mentor Spotlight: Claudia Morales

This month in the mentor spotlight, we have Mrs. Morales. She has been helping the Robo Vikes since 2017, since her son, Oscar, joined the team. She has also been coaching multiple FLL teams at SMG, one of our feeder schools, for 5 years. Outside of her FIRST work, Mrs. Morales likes to read, go camping, and spend time with her children.

Mrs. Morales has a bachelor’s in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, and a Masters in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She works for Bell as a Quality Assurance Specialist for their various systems and also creates algorithms. After working there for 26 years, she says the accomplishment she’s most proud of is successfully balancing her work and family life. Mrs. Morales is married to Dr. Gilbert Morales, another mentor who has been a huge help to the team. They have four children. Her youngest son Oscar, as mentioned earlier, is a member of our team and a sophomore at Nolan.

Mrs. Morales in a Bell 407

When asked why she works so hard to be involved with all these FIRST teams, Mrs. Morales said : “Being with students who are eager to learn and work hard energizes me. Last season, I coached two all-girl FLL teams at SMG and I truly enjoy seeing them engaged and always trying one more idea or design. I am also part of the Bell Education Outreach Committee whose main focus is to promote STEM careers with our local K-12 schools.  I am a true believer of paying it forward and I had great mentors during my K-12 years who inspired me and motivated me to pursue a career in STEM.”

St. Patrick, Patron of the Robo Vikes

His Engineering Background

Many associate St. Patrick with the four leaf clover and Ireland. However, St. Patrick serves great importance to the Robo Vikes. Because of his efforts in the initial construction of Irish clay churches and building arches of lime mortar, St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineering. Growing up in the Romanticized culture, he was educated and developed an understanding of modern engineering techniques. To provide places for the Irish converts to worship, St. Patrick became a builder of the missions and churches including the first Irish Church in Saul County Down.


St. Patrick constructed the first Irish Church in Saul County Down.


He offers a model to students not only through his engineering achievements but also through his courageous story. St. Patrick faced many difficulties throughout his life. In order to convert Ireland to Catholicism, he experienced constant opposition, a kidnapping, enslavement, and threats to his life. Through all of the difficulties, St. Patrick maintained his faith.

Our Team

St. Patrick is the patron of Team 4206. His story constantly reminds students to courageously pursue their endeavors throughout their engineering careers and lives. It pushes the builders to trust in God during the difficult times of the build season. It allows the team to grow even close to God during the good times of victory. St. Patrick truly watches over our team and guides the working hands of our students.


Coach’s Corner

March has been a fantastic month and we are very excited about our team.  We successfully completed bagging our most advanced robot yet, and we have successfully built a second or practice robot. We competed at the Plano district event and were one of the best teams at delivering cargo (the orange playground ball) and our new driver has now had many hours of practice. Our robot can now deliver hatch panels as well as cargo.  As we head into the Dallas District Event, we are very excited about our prospects. 

We have a great group of new students who are having their first experience with competition.  Many are scouting and others are in the pit.  At the Plano District event our team was selected to be a part of the 7th seed alliance.  We played two tough matches but were eliminated in the quarter finals.  The team returned from this event determined to redesign the hatch grabber and the pneumatic connections so that troubleshooting would be easier and so that there would be less interference with some of the assemblies, which proved effective.

Finally, our Drive Team and our mentor Kevin LaPerriere drove to Rockwall this past weekend.  The team there has a real practice field setup.  Our students were able to get in a lot of good practice.  We are definitely ready for this next weekend’s competition in Dallas.  If we do well enough to improve our district level ranking, then we hope to qualify for the Texas District Championship in Austin April 4-6.  Thank you again to all of our sponsors, mentors, students and parents for helping make the Robo Vikes a great team.  Go Robo Vikes!

Drake Varga & Adrianna Araujo help with the field set up at the Plano District Event
Mr. Gilbert Morales helps mentor students as they work on the robot.

Practice Robot

Every season, the RoboVikes attempt to create a secondary robot, which is completely identical to the first one. This is the first year our secondary robot is fully operational with the same mechanics, pneumatics, and code. The reasoning for creating this robot was explained by Robot Lead, William Bice: “The purpose of the robot is to hone in our skills before and in between competition matches while the first one is bagged”. When asking Schedule Lead, Ryan Bice, about the secondary robot, he said, “It gave us a way to fix all the problems with the first robot. Thankfully no new problems came up with this robot”. We have taken our practice robot to compete with team 4192 at Flower Mound and we will be practicing at Rockwall before the Dallas District Competition.

Plano District Competition

The Robo Vikes first district competition took place on March 14-16 in Plano. Team 4206 started off a bit slow, dealing with many different little issues throughout the day. The problems the team encountered were with the air valves, pneumatics wiring, and batteries. Our team struggled the first few rounds with some small technical problems and with driving, however as our driver became experienced, we were really successful  manipulating cargo. There are 3 ways that robots can score points: with cargo, with hatches, or by being able to lift itself. Our robot proved to be a great cargo bot. The Robo Vikes were picked by Knights Robotics and made it to the quarter finals of the competition. With two weeks of improvements and practice, the Robo Vikes are confident that they can sneak into the Austin Championship in April.

The Chairman’s Award is the most prestigious award a team can win in FIRST, which is judged best on how well a team can spread STEM to the community. This requires outreach, an essay and several questions to be answered, a presentation, and a video. Chairman’s team consists of John Conlin, Alex Alvarado, and Brenden Ewert, with Mr. Araujo being the chairman’s mentor. The Chairman´s team did a lot of hard work behind the scenes. The team memorized their lines which required a lot of practice. The Chairman´s team met with the Allen team, as they helped improve the presentation. The presentation the Robo Vikes displayed was very good. The team took note of the positive and negative things and look to improve their presentation for the Dallas District event.

John Conlin and Maggie Blair interacted with a team of FLL juniors during the competition. The FLL juniors consists of students in grades 1st through 4th who get an early exposure to STEM. John and Maggie gave these young students a tour of the event. They got to experience and see the team at work in the pit. They wore safety glasses and got to see the different tools the team uses. In addition the FLL junior team got to cheer on the Robo Vikes from the stands.

Student Spotlight- John Conover

One of the most experienced Robo Vikes is a veteran member, John Conover. John, a senior, is in his final season as a member of the team. During his junior year, he joined the team, but his skills do not reflect the two short years he has been a member of the Robo Vikes. John has an important role on our team. He manages the pneumatics and wiring of the robot. Pneumatics is the technology of compressed air. The engineering uses pressurized air to perform and complete various actions. John learned about pneumatics through the Internet and many hours of trial and error. When asked why he enjoys pneumatics, he responded, “I like the SHOOK SHOOK sounds the Bimba pneumatics creates.” For the 2019 FIRST game, pneumatics is involved in the gameplay more than ever. John’s experience allows the team to succeed in the competition. Throughout the build season, John has worked furiously to perfect the pneumatics system on the robot. With his immense knowledge, John plans to attend either Loyola Chicago or Notre Dame and major in psychology or engineering.


John trialing the current pneumatics system for the upcoming Dallas competition.

Because John is the only member with lots of knowledge in the pneumatics field, he plans to pass his legacy onto younger members. At the end of the season, John will guide and teach current member, Erik Cura, about pneumatics.


John passing his legacy to Erik Cura.

RoboVikes at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Team 4206 visited the Fort Worth History and Science museum on February 20, 2019. The Robo Vikes were in the activity area where we had a small booth to show the kids what the team is all about. We brought several small robot arms and a box of stacking blocks for the kids to play with. We also brought our competition robot to show off to younger teams, hoping to inspire them to join FIRST in the future. 

However, we were not the only people there. An all women’s FTC robotics team was there with their robot. They were very nice and we communicated with each other about our robots. 

Our plan on the trip was to have the upperclassmen control the competition robot while the underclassmen help the kids with the small robotic arms. We were there from  8 am to 3 pm where we put most of our efforts into playing with the kids. The students worked in shifts so that they could take turns enjoying the museum and other STEM displays.

My experience there was very enjoyable. I had fun  playing with the kids and I’m glad that I could  open up a few of the kid’s eyes to the world of robotics. I was also thrilled about seeing others group’s projects and the attraction of the museum.IMG_9536 (1)IMG_9534IMG_9528

Mentor Spotlight: Dr. Gilberto Morales

Mr. Morales is a mentor of the Robo Vikes family, he aids with manufacturing and anything team members are working on. He thinks that the team really improved this year, and that we should be successful at our district competitions. Mr. Morales attended The University of El Paso (UTEP) and graduated with a doctorate in Engineering at UTA. Mr. Morales has been a powerful moving force when it comes to getting things done, and has many great ideas. Mr. Morales has helped many team members on parts, and assembly.

Currently Mr. Morales works as a Mechanical Engineer at Bell Helicopter, and coaches multiple FLL teams at Saint Maria Goretti (SMG), Mr. & Mrs. Morales both aid each other in running their FLL teams. Mr. and Mrs. Morales have 3 children. Oscar, their youngest son, is a two year member who, with the help of Mr. Morales and other mentors is surely setting up to become a hard worker this season and for the rest of his seasons on the Robo Vikes. The team are all thankful for what Mr. Morales has brought to the team helping us think logically, and for always being a helping hand when in need.  We thank Mr. Morales for the time he has devoted for the team.