Fundamental resource archive

Compiled by mentor Nate Laverdure in fall 2016, this document lists the top resources that have been helpful in his growth as an engineer and a mentor.  They are representative of his interests and opinions, and therefore lean towards mechanical systems and fabrication techniques.

Taken together, they constitute his idea of an archive of fundamental resources (papers, presentations, videos, websites, etc) which are essential to being “good at robots” in modern FRC. The idea isn’t quite right– in truth, every team has the capability for designing and fielding excellent winning robots regardless of how well-developed their library of knowledge is. However, compiling these resources gives new FRC designers a significant leg up by rapidly exposing them from lessons learned from hundreds of people, some of them with over two decades of experience in this competitive robotics program.

The biggest thing to learn from these resources is simple: that nothing in FRC is so complex or far advanced that it can’t be understood by anyone willing to put in the time to understand it.


Chairman’s Award video 2017

This video was provided to judges as part of our submission for the 2017 Chairman’s Award.  Triple Helix received the Chairman’s Award at the FIRST Chesapeake District – Hampton Roads event at Churchland High School in Portsmouth.  Here’s what the judges had to say about our team:

The 2017 FIRST Chesapeake District Hampton Roads Qualifiers Chairman’s Award is the most prestigious award in FIRST. It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.  The Chairman’s Award is presented to the team judged to have the most significant measurable impact on its partnerships among participants and community over a sustained period, not just a single build season.  The winner is able to demonstrate progress towards FIRST’s mission of transforming our culture. The recipient team will be invited to the District Championship where it will compete for the Chairman’s Award against winners from other qualifying events and compete with their robot.

This team’s success is defined by four powerful characteristics: growth, development, replication, and functioning.

First, the team exhibits exceptional growth. Not just the number of members involved, but also in its influence on individual team members and its community. An internal peer mentoring program helps members develop their leadership, communication, and innovative skills. The team growth in advocacy is seen in its lobbying to gain stipends for public school teachers that mentor robotics teams, and its profile in social media and other digital platforms.

Second, the team is an example of what development is all about. Their program is involved by incorporating explicit focus on the arts and business. Student groups use graphic design, public speaking, and grantmanship as they sustain and strengthen partnership with mentors and sponsors. And in public, they have presentations that promote STEM and FIRST.

Third, the team is worthy of replication. This team models replication in helping to create FRC, FTC, and FLL teams, contributing time, expertise, equipment, and registration fees. They also are a lead collaborator for an offseason FRC event and a Chesapeake regional FRC kickoff.

Finally, this team is multi-functional. The team functions as an ambassador for FIRST, hosting robot demonstrations at large events such as air shows, science exposition days, and STEM fairs. This team functions as a catalyst to impact students by presenting summer STEM camps that simulate an FLL build season, and they conduct demonstrations for elementary school clubs that target girls and minorities.

Now, according to Webster’s, DNA may be defined as a molecule carrying genetic instructions for the growth, development, replication, and functioning of a living organism. That’s why our judges believe this team’s success is truly by design.  Team 2363!


Airship pilot wings

After each competition, 2363 holds a “lessons learned” meeting where we discuss what we did right and what needs improving. One thing we noted was how awesome our airship pilot is. We noted that she makes better decisions than the audience. At the end of one match, our 3rd rotor was spinning, we had 4 gears needed to get the 4th rotor, and the horn sounded. Rather than waste time pulling up a gear with no value, she chose to drop the ropes instead. Of course the whole time the crowd was shouting, “Gear! Gear!” To honor her decision making skills under pressure, at our next meeting we presented her with a set of Airship Pilot’s Wings.

Has your airship pilot earned their wings?

Chief Delphi post

Making a Triple Helix style climbing rope

During the quarter-finals of our last competition, our Pilot looked out over the field and noted that 3 of the teams of the field were using our climbing ropes, one of which was on the opposing alliance. After seeing so many posts about ropes failing in competition, 2363 has decided to share our method for making ropes with the FRC community.

Instructional video

Chief Delphi post

Woodie Flowers submission 2017

Triple Helix students are proud to publish this Woodie Flowers Award nominating essay for our mentor Bill Bretton.

William Bretton has been the electrical mentor on FRC Team 2363, Triple Helix, for the past three years, and during this time he has affected the team in a significant and wonderful way. He has been an inspiration to his students by teaching them the fundamentals of engineering and design. He has also implemented many electrical and team systems that have saved time and provided greater efficiency. Not only is he a great asset and well-loved mentor of our team, but he is also highly respected on other teams, due to his unwavering support given to teams in need.

Mr. Bretton is very proficient at the electrical and programming systems that he works with, and is able to explain unfamiliar concepts to students with ease. He teaches his students the critical thinking skills and creative processes of engineering, and is always willing to correct students with a kind word. In addition to teaching students, he also has put into practice the use of a living document on Google Keep, which not only tracks robot development, but also enables greater connectivity between subteams and better team communication overall. He has also helped the student leadership create end-of-meeting checklists that allow for quicker a clean-up time, which expands the amount of time spent working on the robot. Additionally, he took the initiative to create modular electrical systems that can be plugged into separate prototypes, which allows the mechanical subteam more freedom to test prototypes without a complete robot. This system has saved a significant amount of time spent during build season, and highlights one of the many ways in which he has impacted the team due to his creativity of engineering design and concepts.

As well as being a spectacular mentor to the team, Mr. Bretton has also shown true leadership at competitions. Oftentimes, younger teams will struggle with building a functional drivetrain. During the 2016 season, Mr. Bretton saw one such team and didn’t hesitate to ask if he could help. The team was soon able to cross most of the defenses, and Mr. Bretton was thrilled to see their progress throughout the remainder of the competition. This unfaltering support of other teams, regardless of who they were, set an excellent example of gracious professionalism to the students on our team.

When Mr. Bretton joined the team, he was eager to learn how the team worked and what he could to to help it work better. His dedication to teaching students, his initiative towards improving the team, and his knowledge of electrical and programming systems has made him an integral member of the team. He has become a true role model who inspires students and mentors alike, and his expertise and experiences have provided for greater success for both the team competitively and for students academically. He is a friend and an inspiration to all, and we are incredibly grateful to have a mentor as influential and inspiring to work with as Mr. Bretton.