Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics update – May 2019

Season recap
Triple Helix concludes our 2019 competition season with an overall record of 31 wins, 17 losses, and 1 tie in official matches across three competitions, winning one event and making our exit as semifinalists in another.  We were proud to receive two judged technical awards, including one at the regional championship level, for the design creativity we exhibited in our approach to the Destination: Deep Space challenge.  In addition, with the Engineering Inspiration Award we were recognized for our hard work towards our organization’s core mission of developing an interest and respect for STEM in our community– a radically gratifying thing to receive this acknowledgement for something we hold so important.

The FIRST Robotics Competition is one game, played on a thousand levels.  Only a few of these levels have points, rules, and a strong definition of what it means to be “successful.”  While our team’s performance across our competition season was stellar and successful by a number of important metrics, we missed the bullseye on a couple of our goals, including making a strong play for the win at our regional championship event.  In the engineering world, “failures” don’t have a negative connotation– stuff fails, and learning from its failure is key to meaningful improvement.  Our friend Karthik Kanagasabapathy says that “only a few teams are going to win the event, so failure is… intrinsically part of the FIRST experience… Success is inspiring but there are more learning opportunities associated with failure if you handle failure correctly.”  Continuous improvement is central to our team culture; the learning opportunities that Triple Helix experienced this season have already become valuable assets in our toolbox.  Our competitors would love the chance to peek inside that toolbox!

At the District Championship, I was awarded the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award which “celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design.”  While this is an individual award in name, it truly reflects the strength of the team as a whole (which is why the award comes with a blue banner for the team!).  I owe my thanks to everyone in the Triple Helix community, and especially the current and former students, for your contribution to our program.  The team works because of your passion and your belief in our mission– and because you’ve learned the big “secret:” that’s it’s fun to work super hard and accomplish something meaningful as a part of a team.  I have greatly enjoyed working and playing with you over the past 5 seasons.  I’m so proud of what we’ve built together– and of you.  Let’s keep it going…

We are indebted to the many wonderful sponsors who make our program not just possible, but also effective and important.

Now is the perfect time to join
(also, come to our open house the evening of Thursday, May 30)
If you’re on the fence about getting involved in the team, know that May-June is the best time to visit, poke around, lend a hand, and become a team member.  For our year-round team, the summer is all about tech development projects, training, outreach, and fundraising.  Since every team member is working on learning something new, you’ll fit in really well.

Our doors are always open, but on one special night this month, we’ll be hosting an open house for all interested new folks.  Please join us on Thursday, May 30th starting at 6:30pm to speak with current our students and mentors, tour our workspace at Menchville HS, and learn more about how you can help us build an even stronger team.

Our year-round team simulates a small engineering firm, and we have a core product: our mentors and students work side-by-side to field a highly competitive FRC robot. Building a robot requires wiring a complex electrical system, writing hundreds of lines of code, machining and assembling high-precision parts, and much more. As a company we also have many extensive public speaking and outreach opportunities, as well as the need to write essays, film and edit videos, and develop marketing materials. If you’re not a technical person, there’s still a place on the team for you! Remember that you need no experience, special skills or knowledge to be a valuable member of our team.

We’re recruiting adults too!

Save the date – Rumble in the Roads
The 6th annual Rumble in the Roads, Hampton Roads’ unofficial offseason FRC tournament, is scheduled for Saturday, November 3, 2019 at Heritage High School in Newport News.  Triple Helix is proud to help organize this event along with partners Blackwater Robotics team 1610 and CAT5 Cybercanes team 5957.  The volunteer registration for the event will open later this summer; stay tuned for more information!

Congratulations to Jason Ingram
Triple Helix congratulates VCU College of Health Professions student Jason Ingram on completion of his degree requirements and imminent graduation as a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD).  Triple Helix was a key part of Jason’s doctoral experiential capstone project: exploring the crossroads of engineering and occupational therapy.  Jason joined Triple Helix this season and worked alongside our students and mentors to develop and modify assistive technology for clients throughout Hampton Roads.  As a result of this experience, our students gained a deep appreciation for how they can use their budding engineering skills to make a meaningful, personal impact in their community, and we look forward to continuing our relationships with the many therapy professionals and organizations Jason connected us with this spring.  We also look forward to working with our next VCU OT student who is planning to continue and extend the long-term project when she joins us in January 2020!

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics
President, Intentional Innovation Foundation