Matt Wilbur Award

In 2016, Triple Helix head coach Nate Laverdure established the Matt Wilbur Award named in honor of the team’s 2007 founder. Nate had this to say at the team’s season-end celebration banquet:

Triple Helix team members come in many forms. Tonight we have been celebrating the excellent work of our students, but it’s important to remember that the team wouldn’t be successful without the contributions of our other team members– parents, mentors, alumni, advisors, sponsors, and friends. After our seniors graduate and take with them all the things they’ve experienced during their time with Triple Helix, these folks are charged with carrying on the history, personality, and culture of the team.

The Matt Wilbur Award celebrates adult team members who effectively advance the mission and vision of Triple Helix by leading, inspiring, empowering, motivating, and influencing others. The award recognizes an individual who has advanced our community’s appreciation for engineering and engineers. This year’s winner will be inducted into the Triple Helix Hall of Fame, and in the future will be joined by one winner per year.

The Matt Wilbur Award reflects the name of our team’s founder. During his incredible 8-year period as head coach, Mr. Wilbur led Triple Helix to 5 regular-season wins and 20 official awards. His leadership established Triple Helix as a regional powerhouse of competitive excellence, which allowed us to recently become one of the winningest teams in our Chesapeake Region. He also saw 92% of graduates pursue their college plans, 83% of them majoring in a STEM field. Most importantly, he helped many Triple Helix students find something in themselves that they didn’t know existed, and helped others find outlets for things that they needed to show the world. Through the systems of leadership and project management that Mr. Wilbur established for the team, Mr. Wilbur laid the cornerstone for all that Triple Helix does and aspires to do.

Below, find more information about each of our honorees.

I am proud to present the winner of the inaugural Matt Wilbur Award to team mentor Todd Ferrante.

The opportunity to learn from Mr. Ferrante was one of the key reasons I joined Triple Helix in 2014. He’s been pivotal to my growth as an engineer, a mentor, and a leader. He deeply understands the importance of carrying on the team culture, and he’s often the first mentor to demonstrate how the team works to new team members. When I work with him, I’m inspired to be a better mentor.

Mr. Ferrante explored exciting new roles during the 2016 FRC season. He served as a founding member of the board of directors for Triple Helix’s booster organization. He’s thrived as the drive team coach, directly leading a small group of students and expertly leveraging the support of the entire team, gaining huge victories for the team, on and off the field. In advising for the award, Mr. Wilbur had this to say about this year’s winner:

In 2011, Triple Helix was a team on the rise both competitively and with our outreach program. That year, however, Todd Ferrante arrived, and Triple Helix shot through the roof, largely due to Todd’s contributions to the team. That year, we won the Palmetto Regional and were finalists at the Virginia Regional, losing to the team that was eventually one of the FIRST world champions that season. We also won four other awards, causing everyone within FIRST to sit up and take notice. The team has continued to excel with Todd’s guidance, patience, and dedication leading the charge. Todd’s outstanding grasp of mechanical systems, patience with the students and other mentors, and his willingness to lead and participate in outreach efforts have undoubtedly made Triple Helix a significantly better team. I am pleased that I was able to mentor alongside of Todd for several years, and I am tremendously pleased that I am privileged to call him my friend.

Tonight I am proud to present the winner of the 2nd annual Matt Wilbur Award to team mentor Matt Lythgoe.

Lythgoe is the team’s most senior mentor.  He joined the team in 2008 as a faculty advisor while teaching math, programming, and robotics courses at Menchville, and he has been an instrumental part of the team ever since.  His leadership helped set the foundation for the team’s successful approach to determining a game strategy and finding programming solutions to tough problems.  Sometimes using his special brand of sarcasm, he has set up highly effective work practices for the programming subteam.  His students have gone on to pursue degrees in Computer Science, Computational Modeling, Data Analytics, etc. and several have interned with him as they deepen their understanding of software development.

My experience working with Lythgoe in summer 2014, as we kick started the planning for the inaugural Rumble in the Roads, was my first exposure to Triple Helix and an important reason I joined the team later that year.  Since I took on my present role, he’s consistently served as an essential advisor.

Lythgoe is in tune with what’s happening at the leading edge of competitiveness in FRC, and the team has benefited from the relationships he’s grown with teams across the country.  His son Jackson is now only ~12 years away from being a Triple Helix student.

When I spoke to Matt Wilbur about this award presentation a few weeks ago, he said “Please extend my congratulations to the team for another fantastic season, and congrats to Matt for being selected to the Triple Helix Hall of Fame!”

Tonight I am proud to present the winner of the 3nd annual Matt Wilbur Award to team mentor Bill Bretton.

Bill and I joined Triple Helix around the same time in 2014.  The first thing to understand about Bill is that his first priority is his family– that was evident from the very first time I met him, at an introductory meeting where he and Ben toured the workshop and met the rest of the team.  He told us that since being a part of Triple Helix was something Ben wanted to do, then he was going to be involved too– and since then, the Bretton family has become an integral part of the Triple Helix family.

Bill has been our electrical subteam mentor since day one, and in the past few seasons he’s also become our lead mentor for the pit crew at competitions.  Bill is quick to see the potential in his students and molds them into true members of a team.  In the past couple years, Bill has advanced our electrical subteam to the leading edge of technology in FRC and has made Triple Helix into a reference for teams in our area.  In the Triple Helix workshop and in the pit, he creates an environment where everyone performs at their best even in stressful circumstances.  When you are asked to be a member of a pit crew, you may have to fight an instinctive urge to immediately fix any problem you discover.  Bill’s pit crew isn’t reactive like that– the individual members of the pit have overlapping focus areas, they employ standard procedures which are deeply considered and evolve throughout the season, they follow information handoff practices to reduce misunderstandings, and they make big decisions based on trends.  It’s complex, challenging work that looks seamless because of Bill’s skill as a mentor and a leader.

Bill’s also a mentor to me– he has a deep empathy, especially for introverts, that he develops his guidance from.  He is level headed and has almost no cynicism, which makes him a good counterbalance against Lythgoe.  He can do a perfect impression of the look that my father gives me when he’s not mad, just disappointed.

I would like to thank Bill and his family for their work advancing the goals of Triple Helix in our community, and present him this year’s Matt Wilbur Award.

Tonight I am proud to present the winner of the 4th annual Matt Wilbur Award to team mentor Wendy Bretton.

Wendy is a rock star technical mentor. Under Wendy’s leadership this season, her programming subteam gave life to one of the most technically ambitious competition robots that Triple Helix has ever created.  The work we did this year in motion control, computer vision, and semiautonomous driving are star achievements that reinforce our team’s role as a technical leader in the FRC community.

Triple Helix constantly talks about our dedication to continuous improvement, learning from our experiences, improving and expanding our knowledge base, etc.  One aspect of this that doesn’t get as much attention is that, to find these lessons learned, you must go exploring outside your comfort zone.  Sometimes this can be a challenging, humbling experience.  One of Wendy’s greatest skills as a mentor is building a team around her that is eager to take on ambitious tasks, knowing that they have a lot still to learn.  She is adept at creating spaces where failure is experienced in a positive way, which is essential for growing people who do excellent work as a member of a team and have empathy for others.

One of the reasons I came to Triple Helix in 2015 was to seek out my own mentors.  I’m glad to have had the opportunity to work with Wendy, as she has been a great mentor to me personally.  Her input into team leadership decisions, including encouraging much more student involvement in steering our organization, has made the team immeasurably better.

I would like to thank Wendy for her work advancing the goals of Triple Helix in our community, and present her this year’s Matt Wilbur Award.