Woodie Flowers submission 2019

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

Nate Laverdure joined Triple Helix six years ago and took on the role of head coach the following year. As a cryogenics mechanical engineer at Jefferson Labs, he is extremely valuable to the team as a whole, serving as the primary coordinator of Triple Helix activities in the community. As head coach, Nate has transformed the team’s structure to put students in leadership positions and has moulded the atmosphere into an incredibly friendly and inclusive environment. The relationship he has with students is respectful and comfortable, so much so that students refer to him by his first name. The amount of time and work he has dedicated to Triple Helix is inspiring to mentors and students alike.

Nate emphasizes the mentality of continuous improvement by organizing team meetings before and after competitions in which we reflect on the positives and negatives of our team’s performance at events. He also introduced System Integration Meetings, in which students from different subteams communicate their progress on team projects during the build season. These meetings maximize communication across the team and encourage students to communicate consistently in work environments. “Nate keeps everyone on the same page with emails and on slack, he leads the team in meeting about competition and makes sure everyone understands what’s going on,” says Sigrid.

Nate encourages learning by asking students to brainstorm how they would solve a problem rather than giving an outright answer. He motivates students through guided problem solving and ensures that students take on most of the projects and are recognized for doing so. “Nate makes the whole challenge and competitions less stressful by focusing on solving current problems instead of just winning,” said Eric. He also prioritizes assisting other teams in and out of competitions, sending pit crew members to other teams in need of a helping hand as well as collaborating with local teams in the off-season. To address the lack of practice space, Nate founded the Peninsula STEM Gym as a place where local teams can practice and collaborate.

At the start of each season, Nate presents the team with a list of priorities that need to be respected, including self, homework, and robotics. The purpose of this exercise is to establish a team mentality of balancing personal health and extracurricular activities. By impressing upon the students the importance of a balanced life, Nate encourages us to refrain from physical and mental overexertion, in the shop or at home. Nate serves as a model for students to emulate, as well as a resource, often teaching students physics and helping with other homework.

He’s influenced the team culture in a truly unforgettable and incredible way, provided a safe space for students to be completely expressive, and helped the team culture grow from that of a workplace into a family. Nate is not only our mentor, he is our friend.

Method for Arcade Drive input scaling

“Arcade Drive” is a popular joystick control method for skid-steer robot drivetrains, where one joystick axis controls the “throttle” (speed forward and back) and the other axis controls the rate of rotation of the robot chassis.

We provide a method for scaling the [-2, 2] range of (throttle command + turn command) down to [-1, 1] for use with an arcade drive.

This scaling is applied smoothly with no discontinuities anywhere in the input range. There is also no loss of information– both outputs (power/speed commands to motor controllers on the left and right sides of the drivetrain) always depend on both inputs (the driver’s throttle and turn joystick commands).

Explainer document

Code example

Chief Delphi discussion

Newsletter: Triple Helix update – January 2019

Happy New Year! Triple Helix is looking forward to a super exciting 2019 season!

We’ve locked in our event schedule
Triple Helix aims to compete at up to 4 FIRST Robotics Competition events this spring. Hope to see you there!

  • March 2-3: FIRST Chesapeake District Haymarket VA event, Battlefield HS
  • March 16-17: FIRST Chesapeake District Portsmouth VA event, Churchland HS
  • April 11-13: FIRST Chesapeake District Championship, EagleBank Arena, George Mason University, Fairfax VA
  • April 25-27: FIRST Championship, Cobo Center, Detroit MI

In addition, you’re welcome drop by any of our team meetings– we’d love to show you what our awesome students are working on!

The Peninsula STEM Gym is ready for Deep Space
As a result of a special collaboration with FRC team 122 the NASA Knights, the Peninsula STEM Gym is now stocked with all the materials needed to build mockup wooden field elements for the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition game Destination: Deep Space!

Attention woodworkers among us: we are seeking volunteers who’d like to use their building skills to help the local FRC teams by constructing these mockup game elements with us! Please contact us if you’re interested in joining the project.

Founded and operated by Triple Helix’s operating sponsor Intentional Innovation Foundation, and established with the generous assistance of a Community Knights GIFT Grant, the Peninsula STEM Gym is a place for student robotics teams to develop competition robots and have real-world engineering experiences that will inspire a lifelong interest in science and math. Our gym features a 75%-sized FRC field and a complete 2018 FIRST Tech Challenge – Rover Ruckus playing field sponsored by Newport News Shipbuilding. These resources are available for community use.

Thank you to the Community Knights
Triple Helix wishes to share our deep appreciation of Community Knights, Inc, which in December awarded our team a $2,000 GIFT Grant towards the purchase of a replacement metal lathe. In turn, our existing lathe will be passed to another competitive youth robotics team on the Peninsula, or moved to the STEM Gym to become a community resource.

Triple Helix students have the opportunity to learn how to safely use lathes to create high-quality robot parts. In this video we published over the summer, we document how our students use our current lathe to cut grooves for snap rings: small clips which retain components axially along a drive shaft.

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