Newsletter: Triple Helix: semifinalists in WV endurance robot tournament

Last weekend, the Triple Helix Robotics team traveled to Morgantown, WV, where we competed in a field of 24 teams in an 26-hour overnight competition.

WVROX, “the world’s first and only FIRST Robotics Competition endurance event”, is held every two years at West Virginia University and is hosted by fellow NASA house team 2614 MARS.

Photo credit: Sanjay (FRC 4099)

In this challenging event, Triple Helix racked up 18 match wins and finished the event as semifinalists and captains of the 3rd-ranked alliance alongside our alliance partners teams 48 and 2656.

The team has now played well over 100 Rapid React matches– one of our busiest seasons ever. And it’s not done yet! We look forward to playing additional offseason events this fall, including the one we are co-hosting– the 7th annual Rumble in the Roads on Saturday, November 5 at Menchville High School.

We’re also well into our recruiting season for the upcoming school year, and we welcome any prospective new students and mentors to drop by any upcoming meeting to meet the team and learn about how to get involved.

Thanks for your support!
Nate

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics – quarterfinalists at IRI!

This summer, Menchville High School’s award-winning Triple Helix robotics team travels to two high-profile offseason tournaments where we compete (for fun and bragging rights) on a national stage against many of the world’s top teams.

These events are similar (in size, scope, schedule, budget, etc.) to our own “Rumble in the Roads”, a fall FRC offseason tournament that Triple Helix co-hosts alongside our friends 1610 Blackwater Robotics. This fall, the 7th annual Rumble will be held at Menchville High School on Saturday November 5.

Indiana Robotics Invitational (IRI)

Last weekend, we traveled to the prestigious Indiana Robotics Invitational, a 48 team tournament held over 2 days in Columbus, Indiana.

After successfully debugging a tricky networking problem on the evening of load-in, Triple Helix managed to squeeze out 7 wins in our first 11 qualification matches, demonstrating our robot’s ability to quickly cycle game pieces into the large central goal and, right at the end of each match, quickly hang on the “mid” bar for some critical extra bonus points.

Check out this 10-minute summary of the IRI by FIRST Updates Now!

Triple Helix was selected as the 4th and final member of the 4th-seeded alliance alongside world-renowned partners:

  • 195 CyberKnights from Southington, CT
  • 67 The HOT Team from Highland, MI
  • 2539 Krypton Cougars from Palmyra, PA

Our 4th seeded alliance paired up against an extremely strong 5th seed in the first round of the playoffs (a best of 3 series), and ultimately lost to them in our 3rd and final match of the event.

This success — 

  • to receive an invite to this amazing event
  • to be able to go
  • to put up a winning record in qualifying rounds
  • to be asked to join a playoff alliance
  • for our robot to touch the carpet and put points on the scoreboard in the elimination rounds

— represents the culmination of an amazing 2022 season for Triple Helix and is a massive honor for our team.

West Virginia Robotics Xtreme (WVRoX)

In 2 weeks, Triple Helix travels to Morgantown WV where we will play at WVRoX, a 26-hour overnight endurance competition.  We are really excited to play over 30 matches in a field of 24 great teams…

Check out this 1-minute teaser for the event!

Follow along

Our fans can follow along as we play at these events by monitoring
https://www.thebluealliance.com/team/2363

Also, while we’re at an event, the link watch.team2363.org should take you directly to a live stream of our matches.

Thanks for your support!
Nate

SDS MK4 swerve wheel tread jigs

Triple Helix designed and fabricated a set of drilling jigs to prepare replacement strips of treads for the Swerve Drive Specialties MK4 and MK4i swerve module. These jigs reproduce the hole spacing for black neoprene and blue nitrile tread material shared by SDS’s Patrick Woolfenden here; treads prepared using these tools install tightly on the nominal 4″ diameter x 1.5″ wide MK4 swerve wheel. Triple Helix used our 130W laser cutter to cut the components of the tread tools from 1/4″ Delrin sheet.

Onshape document

Assembly instructions:

  • Laser cut the top and bottom plates from 1/4″ sheet.
  • Laser cut the spacer plate(s) to match the thickness of the tread material.
  • Drill and tap the holes around the perimeter of the bottom plate to 8-32.
  • Drill the corresponding holes on the other 2 plates to provide clearance for an 8-32 fastener.
  • Install drill bushings (McMaster 96511A666) into the top plate such that they are flush with the lower surface.
  • Assemble the drill jig with SHCS 8-32 x 5/8″ LG fasteners.

Newsletter: Triple Helix wins the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship

Yesterday evening, our Triple Helix robotics team was crowned winners of the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship held at the Hampton Coliseum, having competed against the 60 highest-ranked high school FIRST Robotics Competition teams in Virginia, Maryland, and DC.

Photo courtesy of Zach Clarke

Our #1 seeded alliance was captained by the RoboBees of Hollywood, MD and joined by partner team 620 Warbots of Vienna, VA. We didn’t have an easy path to victory– the playoff rounds of this event were the most nerve-wracking matches I have ever experienced in my 20 years of FRC.

Triple Helix finishes our 2022 regular season: 

  • ranked #2 out of over 100 teams in our 3-state region,
  • with a W-L-T record of 55-4-3,
  • having acquired 4 of those precious blue “WINNER” banners (something only 3 other teams worldwide have done so far!), and
  • having faced off against our friends 1610 an unfortunate (and perhaps record breaking?) 3 times in the final rounds of a tournament

In addition to our outstanding performance as a team, our team members were recognized individually as well:

  • Our lead programming student (and at this event, our human player!) Joshua Nichols was selected as one of the three Dean’s List Finalists to represent FIRST Chesapeake on the world level. We’re so incredibly proud of Josh and the work he has done over a period of 9+ years to not only increase visibility and respect for STEM in his community, but also to create real STEM exploration opportunities for those who need it. Read our nominating essay, written by the team mentors, here.
  • Our mentor Chris Garrity was recognized as one of the mentors nominated for the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, which celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. Chris is not only a core mentor for Triple Helix but he’s also a reliable event volunteer who makes our competition season possible. Read our nominating essay, written by the team students, here.

There are so many amazing stories to share from this event and from this season. Stories about struggle, sacrifice, mistakes, bad fortune, good fortune, commitment, skill, resilience, and reward. Our team members will carry these experiences with them for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes in this community we hear the phrases “More than robots” and “It’s not about the robot” and even “This isn’t a robot”. These things certainly capture a great realization– that our program is about using the robot to build better people, not about using people to build better robots. But if you jump directly to this logical endpoint, and you don’t come to it after first falling for the Randy Pausch-style “head fake”, I worry that the big impact of this realization can be lost. I warn people from taking this shortcut, because I’ve felt that it’s so much more rewarding if you take the longer road to understanding. This is why, as a team, we can take the attitude that It Is About The Robot… it’s because “the robot” is enough. “The robot” can encapsulate all of the things– the hard-won lessons about sportsmanship, perseverance, honesty, ability, and being a member of a team. The head fake is important; “the robot” is important.

On all of those intertwined levels of understanding– man, our team’s robot this year has been a really great one.

We cannot be more grateful to our entire network of stakeholders for what they do to enable our success. I hope that every parent, sponsor, school administrator, alumni, and friend of the team who receives this message can feel they share in our victory. Your belief in our mission, and your partnership, is essential. Thank you.

The team is taking a couple days off. On Tuesday, our post-season starts. We’d really like you to be a part of it!


Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

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.

https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/1918firstroboticsscouting/viz/RapidReact2022/OverallViz

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

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

Dean’s List 2022: Justin B

Triple Helix mentors are proud to submit the following Dean’s List Award nomination for student captain Justin B, of the class of 2023.

Explain how the student embodies the philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopetition through the FIRST Core Values: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork and Fun. Please provide examples.

Through his engagement in FIRST, Justin has grown into an outstanding student leader who consistently demonstrates a passion for FIRST ideals, a thoughtful and effective leadership style, and a motivation for learning which every 2363 team member tries to model. J’s standout contributions to our program (providing the test case for our quadcopter challenge, leading our project to provide low-cost assistive technology for people with disabilities) have all involved leveraging his knowledge, interest, and pursuit of fun in service to his teammates and our community. An instinctive gracious professional, J has made key impacts within the STEM competition community through his involvement in influential prototyping videos, whitepapers, conference presentations, and other shared resources.

How has the student increased the awareness of FIRST? Describe the student’s interests and/or plans to continue to engage with FIRST beyond high school. Please provide examples.

A dedicated advocate for FIRST and a believer in FIRST students’ power to make meaningful change, Justin assumed a leadership role in our project exploring the intersection of rehabilitation & the maker movement. J and teammates work alongside Occupational Therapy doctoral students to design & build low-cost assistive tech, such as adapting switches into toys to help children learn cause-effect relationships. These devices are immediately beneficial to the clients and are lasting proof of the great potential of students who have gained skills through FIRST. J is also a valuable contributor to traditional outreach events, and recently helped create a mock judging experience for a Championship-bound FLL team. J plans to continue his FIRST participation via event volunteering and mentorship.

Describe the student’s technical expertise, using specific examples in the areas of programming, electronics, design, fabrication, making, illustrating how these skills have contributed to the team’s success. Please provide examples.

Justin always demonstrates remarkable professionalism, sense of responsibility, knack for learning, and emotional intelligence that sets him apart from his teammates. Peers and mentors regularly applaud his work ethic, and he constantly proves himself open to new responsibilities. Because of his motivation to learn and contribute, J has cultivated an expertise in all technical aspects of the team. J’s landmark contributions have included development of an advanced autonomous path-planning software, the CAD design of our robot’s end-effectors in the 2018-2020 FRC seasons, and advancement into a student-trainer role in the operation of precision machinery such as the team’s mill, lathe, laser cutter, and 3d printers.

How does the student’s individual contributions to the team benefit the team as a whole in the areas of fundraising, outreach, entrepreneurship, and creativity? Please provide examples.

In 2021, Justin pioneered the development of TORC, a design-build-fly drone competition within Triple Helix; this program enabled us to maintain student and mentor engagement through the pandemic. Through instructional videos, written documentation, and in-person assistance, J led his peers to develop valuable new skills while working within the bounds of meeting restrictions. J is forward-thinking in regards to presenting our team to our community; he led the design & fabrication of a mini-bot for demos, and has led his peers in contributions to fundraising and grantwriting. As a key contributor to our outreach program, J provides essential assistance with events such as university STEM Days, FLL Kickoffs, demonstrations at air shows, FLL mock judging sessions, activity fairs, and more.

Explain the student’s leadership to their fellow team members. How do they motivate others? What is their leadership style? Please provide examples.

Concurrent with his full-time job as a dedicated and high-performing HS student, Justin serves as Triple Helix’s student captain, having naturally grown into this role since taking on a key design leadership responsibility as an 8th-grader. J’s key strengths as a team leader are his proactiveness in recognizing emerging problems and his drive to implement simple, effective solutions without being asked. During the 2021 season, J’s focus on getting things done and being good stewards of limited team resources were essential to the team’s successes in the At Home challenges. Teammates often seek J’s advice and help. J seeks out opportunities to pass on his skills to new students, leading them to prototype and assemble new mechanisms such as 2022 swerve modules.

Dean’s List 2022: Joshua N

Triple Helix mentors are proud to submit the following Dean’s List Award nomination for lead programming student Joshua N, of the class of 2023.

Explain how the student embodies the philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopetition through the FIRST Core Values: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork and Fun. Please provide examples.

Joshua’s dedication to the FIRST Core Values began in FLL and was cemented by his experience of competing at the World Festival three times. FIRST is a natural fit for J, giving him an outlet to explore his natural love of learning, curiosity, innovative thinking, and desire to be part of a STEM community. Driven by his passion for discovery and innovation, his skill and expertise has led to in-depth explorations of graduate-level mechatronics and controls concepts. J has had a tremendous impact on the FIRST community by mentoring 19 FLL and 3 Jr. FLL teams and by sharing his technical contributions as a gracious professional. J embraces the value of inclusion and has focused the majority of his mentoring in under-served areas.

How has the student increased the awareness of FIRST? Describe the student’s interests and/or plans to continue to engage with FIRST beyond high school. Please provide examples.

For the past 9 years, Joshua has expanded awareness of FIRST through his over 900 hours of outreach and mentoring in his community. J’s primary achievements have included his development of (1) robotics summer camps focusing on underserved populations, and (2) a training program for local FLL coaches. J’s work has also included starting and coaching two FLL teams, participating in over 100 community presentation/demo activities, teaching programming classes in local homeschooling co-ops, and assisting in organizing a Jr. FLL expo at a local STEM festival.

Having been involved with FIRST for most of his life, after graduation J plans to volunteer as a judge at FIRST events as well as mentor FRC teams. J has already started volunteering at local, state, and global FTC and FLL tournaments.

Describe the student’s technical expertise, using specific examples in the areas of programming, electronics, design, fabrication, making, illustrating how these skills have contributed to the team’s success. Please provide examples.

Experienced programming mentor Kim Flynn of FRC 1923 states that Joshua is “one of the two people pushing forward a new frontier in FRC software we’ve never seen; and he’s a student outpacing industry professionals.” J’s landmark accomplishments as leader of the programming subteam have been to (1) overhaul our approach to autonomous path planning and trajectory following for both differential-drive and swerve-drive robots and (2) implement advanced award-winning control techniques. J’s generation of time-optimized trajectories which obey physical constraints placed 2363 as the 39th top scorer among 1,412 teams worldwide in the 2021 FRC challenges. By open-sourcing this work and freely discussing it on the FRC Discord, J has also demonstrated that 2363 is a center of expertise in this area.

How does the student’s individual contributions to the team benefit the team as a whole in the areas of fundraising, outreach, entrepreneurship, and creativity? Please provide examples.

Joshua’s involvement now forms the cornerstone of Triple Helix’s outreach efforts, and has resulted in an increased partnership with our school district’s STEM Department to deliver an organized mentoring program to multiple underserved schools. Because many new students have joined due to his mentoring, J also has a core role in our student recruitment strategy.

In addition to this mentoring effort, J has also organized unique events such as FLL Kickoffs and Coopertition Days, has consistently participated in most of Triple Helix’s 62 outreach events in the past 5 years, and has embarked on outreach efforts of his own. J has also represented the team in written and in-person communications to sponsors, judges, and community members.

Explain the student’s leadership to their fellow team members. How do they motivate others? What is their leadership style? Please provide examples.

Soon after joining 2363 in 8th grade, the team recognized Joshua as the leader of the team’s programming and scouting efforts. These roles require a conscientiousness, work ethic, and maturity far surpassing those of an average HS student, as well as highly-tuned communication skills. J is a skilled technical communicator in all settings; mentors often find him walking students and adults through his approach to various problems, soliciting feedback from these teammates, and incorporating this feedback to refine his thinking. J instills in his teammates the belief that they can accomplish anything they set out to do, and his tenacity in the face of tough problems, and willingness to push technical boundaries, are an inspiration to his teammates.