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


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


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

Sound-Activated Light Blocks


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


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


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

Apple AirPods


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

Shibaful Case

Image result for shibafu grass case

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.


Shooter Off-season Project

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.image1

John Conlin and Julian Ermish, First Year Robo Vikes!

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!





CNC Router

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.

Robo Vikes Information

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 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!