Woodie Flowers 2022: Chris Garrity

Triple Helix students are proud to submit the following Woodie Flowers Award nomination for mentor and alumni Chris Garrity.

Chris G, former Triple Helix student and current mentor, spends every day bringing his professional knowledge and unmatched enthusiasm for STEM to everything he does. From mentoring students on 2363 to helping organize FTC tournaments, he is a role model that all of our students aspire to be.

There is not a more supportive mentor than Chris G. Throughout Covid, our team meeting possibilities became more limited and could not access our workspace at the high school. Our team facilitates the Peninsula STEM Gym, but we were still not able to have large numbers of team members there. We were participating in the 2020 FRC challenges and Chris would meet team members there to let us work. Many days he sat for hours on his days off, supporting meetings so even one student could work all day on their project. He offered guidance when needed, but let the students take the lead.

While there are many ways to approach designing a FRC robot, Chris emphasizes an approach of rapid iterative prototyping that involves all students and teaches valuable hands-on experience. He inspires students by teaching them how to make their creative ideas into real designs. These same students use what they have learned to teach new students, creating a powerful cycle to keep all team members included and engaged.

Chris is constantly encouraging students to express their ideas. He shares thoughts on our Slack channel and encourages students to comment on the ideas and share their own, working together to strengthen our ideas. He encourages all students to contribute to the design of the robot since he acknowledges that everyone provides a unique perspective that gives our team a competitive edge. His enthusiasm during the season makes the hard work of FRC fun for all students.

He provides summaries of meetings to keep everyone on the same page, and documents significant mechanical findings to give people unable to attend meetings a clear idea of what the team was doing so they can contribute.

Chris clearly explains technical concepts to students so they feel they can make a significant contribution and share these concepts with other students. He serves as safety mentor and has written and presented information for the entire team about safe practices while fabricating the robot.

Chris G has changed our team for the better. He exhibits everything that FIRST stands for; through his passion for engineering, his enthusiasm and patience in working with students, and his true caring for all members of the team. His kindness, generosity, and desire to see us succeed has made us believe in ourselves, and this is what we will take with us, long after we move on from FRC.

The Engineering Awards Hexafecta

Triple Helix Robotics has won each of the following Machine, Creativity, & Innovation Awards of the modern FIRST Robotics Competition.

AwardEvent most recently won atRobot
Autonomous Award2022 CHS District Greater Richmond Event #2Genome Nu
Creativity Award2019 FIRST Chesapeake District ChampionshipGenome Lambda
Excellence in Engineering Award2011 Palmetto RegionalGenome Gamma
Industrial Design Award2014 Chesapeake RegionalGenome Zeta
Innovation in Control Award2018 CHS District Northern Virginia EventGenome Kappa
Quality Award2013 Virginia RegionalGenome Epsilon

Find other Hexafecta teams here.

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics now 3x winners in Colonial Heights

This weekend, Triple Helix once again traveled to the Keystone Tractor Museum where we participated in two complete single-day tournaments with 18 different teams each day.  Both Saturday and Sunday contained the full experience of a traditional 2-3 FRC tournament, including travel to and from home, passing initial inspection with our robot, climbing (and falling) in the ranking throughout the competition rounds, forming a competitive alliance for the elimination rounds using insights from match scouting, and vying for ultimate victory as an alliance in the playoffs.

On Saturday, the team found victory alongside partner teams SPARKY 384 from Henrico and Imperial Robotics team 4286 from Mechanicsville. Triple Helix was ranked #1 at the conclusion of qualification rounds and captained the #1 seed alliance. Triple Helix went undefeated in this event– an amazing accomplishment.

On Sunday, the level of competition was much higher. We had been carrying an amazing 27-match win streak until it was broken late in the qualifying rounds by a loss to our future alliance captain, team 401 Copperhead Robotics from Christiansburg VA. Triple Helix joined 401 and our 3rd partner team 7429 Convergence for a fight to the finals, where we won against our good friends at team 1610 in a series of 2 tough matches.

We have truly found world-class performance this year. By several metrics we are among the top 10 teams internationally.


With 38 official match wins already under our belt, we now set our sights squarely on the District Championship.  We invite all our friends and supporters to join us at the event, which is open to the public on Friday and Saturday April 8-9.  More information about the event can be found at https://www.firstchesapeake.org/first-programs/frc/frc-events/frc-district-championship-event

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

Chairman’s Award judge feedback

Triple Helix Robotics is proud to share the feedback we received from the judge panels who interviewed us about our 2022 Chairman’s Award submission.

In regards to the feedback from the Greater Richmond Event #1 Day #1, our head coach provided this feedback:

Wow, this is the best written award feedback I have ever seen! 
We were also extremely impressed by our judges, who asked insightful probing questions in the interview that demonstrated their interest and care.

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics – winners in Colonial Heights!

Triple Helix traveled to Colonial Heights this weekend where we competed against 17 other FRC teams from Virginia. The team ranked first in qualification rounds, captained the #1 alliance, and won the event alongside high-performing partner teams 5724 and 3136.

We’re thankful to the support of our partners and sponsors, the families of our team members, and our excellent remote scouting team. Our competitive success this weekend stemmed from our unique preparedness, which was only possible due to your support.

Triple Helix competes again in 2 weeks, as we work to clinch a berth at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship at the Hampton Coliseum on April 7-9, 2022.
You can follow our season at thebluealliance.com/team/2363 and watch our events streamed live at twitch.tv/firstchesapeake.

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

Chairman’s Award submission 2022

Triple Helix is proud to publish this essay as part of our submission for the 2022 FIRST Robotics Competition Chairman’s Award.

Triple Helix has evolved to be a STEM leader in the Hampton Roads (HR) community, with the goals of enabling team sustainability, supporting the larger FIRST community, and spreading the message of FIRST.


Our approach to team sustainability includes an emphasis on student leadership, strong recruitment, an open-door policy, and building a robust network of supporters in our community through our nonprofit organization, the Intentional Innovation Foundation (IIF).

Triple Helix mentors, parents, sponsor representatives, and other community stakeholders came together in 2015 to establish the all-volunteer public charity IIF to organize community support for Triple Helix, the Peninsula STEM Gym, and the Rumble in the Roads. Providing a stable financial structure for these initiatives, IIF enables us to serve a larger community by operating and sponsoring STEM education activities throughout HR, and opens the door to additional funding opportunities.

Prior to COVID, we addressed the team’s need for an influx of new students by conducting a number of outreach events at local schools, focusing on students who participated in FLL and FTC; we also held multiple open houses and participated in events at our school such as Back to School Night and the activities fair. After the pandemic, safety became our team’s top priority and our recruitment strategy evolved. We reached out to students that had participated on FLL teams that our team members had mentored; currently 80% of our new members came from these teams. Triple Helix is committed to providing an opportunity for all students to participate on an FRC team. We allow students to join who go to schools that do not have a team, as well as those who attend private schools or are homeschooled.

To address the need to retain students and develop student’s leadership skills, we have developed a new student presentation and have a detailed training plan for learning team equipment. The team has developed a structure based on students taking on a number of leadership positions.

There is an overall team captain and leaders for each of the sub-teams such as mechanical, electrical, programming, and scouting. In the last three years, due to their experience on Triple Helix, 100% of our team members have been accepted into a STEM degree program at institutions such as MIT, Rochester, Perdue, Virginia Tech, and UVA.

Triple Helix met the challenge of retaining students during COVID by pioneering the development of TORC, a design-build-fly drone competition within Triple Helix. In this program, we provided cinewhoop-class quadcopter kits to each student and adult team member who were empowered to grow their skills and bring their drones to life, while working within the bounds of protection measures. This virtual and limited in-person program enabled us to maintain a high level of student and mentor engagement through the pandemic, and positioned the team to perform to our potential in the 2021 Infinite Recharge At-Home Competition, where we placed 39th out of 1412 teams.

To recruit and retain mentors, we engage with local businesses and sponsors to raise awareness of Triple Helix and our strong program. Because we are a known leader in the STEM community, we attract FIRST alumni who want to return to the program as mentors. Over 40% of our current mentors participated in one or more FIRST programs as a student. We also benefit from the engagement and varied skillsets of the parents who fill roles from programming mentor to outreach and scouting mentor.


Triple Helix focuses its efforts in the FIRST community on supporting and sustaining existing teams. Our widest-reaching effort is sharing best practices and lessons learned with the worldwide community via our impactful videos and publications. On our YouTube channel we post instructional design videos, robot demos, season logs, drive team development, and match videos. Examples of our Tech Tip videos include how to build bumpers and drivetrains, programming gamepad controllers, and pneumatic prototyping. This channel has accumulated over 1250 lifetime watch hours and nearly 60k views over the last two years. In addition, our website has a plethora of publications for teams to reference for team management and robot development; for example, our published budget provides insight on the inner administrative workings of an active FRC team. Triple Helix is also a leader in the wider FRC online community, including Chief Delphi, Github, and the FRC Discord; this year we have used these platforms to trailblaze new ideas in autonomous path planning and trajectory following for both differential-drive and swerve-drive robots.

Our primary regional outreach effort is our annual off-season competition, Rumble in the Roads, which we host with partner teams 1610 and 5957. The event attracts over 30 teams from VA, NC, and MD. The pre-season event gives teams the opportunity to test new designs, provides practice for the drive team, as well as the opportunity to interact with other teams in a more relaxed competitive environment. It also provides an incredible opportunity to network with local community leaders, sponsors, and judges who have included high school teachers, university professors, professional engineers, and senior executives of NASA Langley Research Center. To make the Rumble experience accessible to rookie teams, we often waive their competition fees.

Since 2018, we have maintained the Peninsula STEM Gym; a multifaceted collaborative workspace that caters to all levels of FIRST teams. Since opening, the facility has featured FRC practice space, FTC fields sponsored by Newport News Shipbuilding, and a location for FLL teams to test and collaborate. Local FRC and FTC teams have used the space to test their robots at least 30 times since its establishment; the space also hosted a collaboration between a local FRC team and the Newport News Police Department (NNPD) on a robot for their shooting range. Triple Helix hosted an FLL Kickoff at the STEM Gym which gave local teams an opportunity to review the playing field, discuss robot design options, and talk to experts regarding their projects.. Triple Helix continued to keep the STEM Gym open as a socially-distanced meeting space for the local youth STEM competition community throughout COVID.

Triple Helix also provides targeted support to local teams based on their needs. We started a partnership with our school district’s STEM Department to deliver an organized mentoring program to multiple underserved schools, including FLL and FLL Jr. teams. When COVID hit, we transitioned to virtual mentoring, including two teams in Florida and Virginia, which went on to compete at their State Championships. We held FLL practice days and mock judging sessions to allow teams an opportunity to practice both judging and running their robot on the field. We started and coached two FLL Jr. teams at BC Charles Elementary School, and then ran an FLL Jr. Expo which allowed teams to showcase their work. On multiple occasions, we have hosted FLL teams at our shop and have provided them with tours and information, including inviting The Waffle Bunnies to practice their project presentation. This practice helped the team to earn a spot at the 2020 FIRST Championship.


Triple Helix plays an active role in the local FIRST community. We participate in community demonstrations and sponsor-hosted events. The events vary from large such as the CNU Community STEM Day, showcasing our team and robot to over 4,000 visitors, to small such as Mad Science Night at Baron Elementary School. We have provided laptops and FLL mats for STEM events in the community, such as summer programming workshops for ESL, Refugee children, and a homeless shelter.

In 2019 Triple Helix began a novel collaboration with the Occupational Therapy (OT) doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to explore the intersection of rehabilitation & the maker movement. In 2019 and 2020, our team served under contract as a host organization for OT students who designed and executed capstone projects for completion of their doctorate. While embedded in the team for a semester, the VCU students participated in Triple Helix’s FRC build season as junior mentors, learning fabrication skills and the iterative engineering design process. Meanwhile, Triple Helix teammates worked alongside the OT students to design and build low-cost assistive technology for a diverse set of local clients. The collaboration has produced 5 ride-on toy cars for young children with mobility impairments, many switch-adapted toys to help children learn cause-effect relationships, a single-handed archery rig for a summer camp, and more examples which demonstrate the potential of youth STEM teams to rapidly produce custom, low cost devices which improve lives in our community.

Triple Helix values our sponsor relationships, and we’ve volunteered, networked, and celebrated alongside new and longtime sponsors at various events from dinner theatre, to airshows, to galas. We’ve also collaborated on a technical level with our sponsors; for example, parts designed and 3d printed by Triple Helix have been installed into a megascience experiment at sponsor Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

Giving back is an important part of the mission of Triple Helix. Triple Helix is a certifying organization of the President’s Volunteer Service Award to reward students who volunteer in support of our sponsors and community. In 2020, the team assisted the NNPD by weaving mats for the homeless out of plastic bags.


Our efforts have truly been impactful to the team and our FIRST community. We really are “more than just robots.”