Newsletter: Triple Helix summer update

Recent Triple Helix graduates Joshua N. and Justin B. present to NASA Langley Research Center employees at a recent Lunch & Learn event organized by the Center’s two “house FRC teams” NASA Knights and Triple Helix.

New faces
Over the last couple months we have welcomed several new students and adults who have checked out the team and shared in our projects. If you’ve been thinking about getting more involved, now is a great time to drop by and check out what we’re all about! The team is continuing to meet year-round, and so far this summer we have been investigating new drivetrain packaging, testing and repairing various electronics, doing training activities, participating in outreach and service events, collaborating with other teams, and more. Keep watching our meeting schedule at to learn about opportunities to meet the team.

Good luck to our new alumni!
Last month, Triple Helix graduated two stellar senior students. As we move into the fall, we’d like to share our best wishes for these new alumni on their next adventures!

My retirement as head coach
I have decided to step down as the head coach of Triple Helix. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the team’s main leader and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished together:

  • We founded the Rumble in the Roads, an offseason FRC tournament that places the energy and impact of competitive youth robotics right in a spot where it’s impossible for our fellow students, coworkers, neighbors, and friends NOT to see it and get inspired by it!
  • We founded the Peninsula STEM Gym, a community practice space for competitive robotics, the only space of its kind within 300 miles.
  • We kept the team competitive through various evolutions of the FRC program, including the switch to district play, the retirement of “bag and tag”, endless changes to the cost accounting rules, etc.
  • We kept the team intact, and serving as a healthy escape, through the massive disruption of the global pandemic.
  • We maintained an outstanding on-field performance– 2x winners of the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship, 5x qualified for the FIRST Championship, 3x invited to the prestigious Indiana Robotics Invitational, and over 30 trophies/medals/banners in official play over the last 8 seasons.

I owe a great deal of thanks to everyone who has contributed to these shared successes, especially my predecessor Matt Wilbur who crafted so many of the essential building blocks that Triple Helix has relied on.

I plan to continue serving as President of Intentional Innovation Foundation, the 501c3 nonprofit we founded in 2015 to organize a collection of youth STEM outreach efforts in Hampton Roads, but I will not be involved in day-to-day mentoring of the team. I continue to believe that FIRST and Triple Helix represent unparalleled opportunities for students, and will do what I can to stay involved in both while exploring other personal opportunities.

Please offer your support to the team’s new leadership
A group of three core mentors has stepped forward with the goal of keeping Triple Helix’s doors open– and maintaining it as a space where students can have transformative experiences in STEM. I have no doubt that, while there will be challenges, this group of mentors can succeed as long as they have your patience, appreciation, and support.

You can reach the Triple Helix leadership team at

Save the date – Rumble 8 – The Ocho
The 8th annual Rumble in the Roads, Hampton Roads’ unofficial offseason FRC tournament, is scheduled for Saturday, October 28, 2023 at Heritage High School in Newport News. Triple Helix is proud to help organize this event along with partners Blackwater Robotics and the NASA Knights.  The volunteer registration for the event will open later this summer; stay tuned for more information!

Nate Laverdure
President, Intentional Innovation Foundation
Former head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

How we shipped our pit to the FIRST Championship

The 2023 FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas featured 619 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams from around the world, or approximately 18% of all active FRC teams. Attending the event as a competitor is a difficult, stressful endeavor for FRC team administrators and trip planners. This year, Triple Helix Robotics found a winning solution to the logistics challenge presented by the FIRST Championship. This writeup serves to summarize our unique approach to shipping our robot and pit equipment to and from the event.

Article (2,226 words, 11 minute estimated read time)

Newsletter: Triple Helix returns home from the FIRST Championship with stories, trophies, and thanks

Triple Helix Robotics shares our heartfelt thanks for your incredible support of our record-breaking 2023 FIRST Robotics Competition season!

Late last night, the team returned from our trip to the international FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, where we met over 600 other high school teams from all over the world for three days of celebration, community, and competition.

Undaunted by the scale of the event, Triple Helix continued to demonstrate high-powered robot performance on the CHARGED UP playing field, and easily secured a spot as one of the top scorers on the Daly field, named for American biochemist Marie Daly, the first African-American woman in the US to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Selected as the 9th overall pick for the Daly elimination tournament, Triple Helix fought hard and ultimately lost alongside partner teams 1477 Texas Torque from Conroe, TX; 3035 Droid Rage from Corpus Christi, TX; and our alliance captain, 6081 Digital Dislocators from Manchester, MI. This event caps off a season that saw Triple Helix ranked among the top 1% of teams worldwide.

The FIRST Championship event judges recognized our students’ pioneering work to develop a computer vision system which augments our existing “dead reckoning” localization methods (odometry and inertial navigation), resulting in an extremely precise estimate of our robot’s position on the playing field. This entirely student-led effort draws upon techniques used in academia and industry, represents a major level-up in our robot’s capabilities, and is completely open-source to the FRC community.

As we close out our 2023 FRC season and look forward to an exciting offseason, I would personally like to thank all of those in our extended network who have helped to make these experiences possible for our students. It’s not that long ago when FIRST first reached into my life and irreversibly set me on the path that I’m on today– enabling me to co-investigate challenging, unsolved problems alongside bona fide engineers from BAE Systems in Nashua, NH with FRC Team 166 Chop Shop, letting me explore some of my first engineering leadership experiences with 612 Chantilly Robotics, allowing me to see the other side of the equation as an alumni/college/young professional mentor of 122 NASA Knights, and finally giving me a chance to run a world-class team with 2363 Triple Helix Robotics. I am incredibly privileged, just like our students are incredibly privileged, to have been a part of this wonderful life-changing program and have benefited from your encouragement, advocacy, and sponsorship. It would not have been possible without you.

Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, likes to say that “Almost every robot will lose…” Triple Helix was certainly no exception– only 3 of the 624 robots competing this weekend found themselves underneath a shower of confetti, and 2363’s wasn’t one of them; it was already packed away for the long journey home. However, Kamen continues, “…but every student can win.

Thank you– from the bottom of my heart– for believing in our program and our students. These wins are yours as well as ours.


Newsletter: Triple Helix, your FIRST Chesapeake Champions, are heading to Worlds

This weekend, Triple Helix Robotics successfully defended our title as Champions of the FIRST Chesapeake District and have received an invite to compete at the World Championship in Houston, Texas!

Triple Helix won the three-day District Championship event in Fairfax, Virginia, alongside our alliance partners FRC 1731 Fresta Valley Robotics Club from Warrenton, VA and FRC 2199 Robo-Lions from Finksburg, MD. The event featured the top 60 high school FRC teams from Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Over 135 matches were played to determine the winning alliance.

In our third elimination match, the 2nd-seeded 2363 – 1731 – 2199 alliance scored every available game piece and racked up an incredible 191 points, matching the world record high score for that phase of the tournament, and just shy of the maximum possible score of 193.

Triple Helix’s performance this year has qualified us to compete at the FIRST Championship, a post-season exposition of 600 high-performing teams from around the world. You can help us get to Worlds by contributing to our GoFundMe campaign at; your support will help offset the team’s transportation costs and is greatly appreciated.

The judge panel at the District Championship also recognized Triple Helix with the Innovation in Control Award, which celebrates innovative control techniques to achieve gameplay functions. Our controls innovations are the result of an intentional, multi-year, student-driven campaign to improve our understanding of autonomous navigation and computer vision processing, and it’s through those student accomplishments that we’ve been able to capitalize on these developments to greatly enhance our competitiveness on the FRC playing field.

An enormous thank you to all who’ve made our 2023 season so successful– especially our sponsors and donors large & small as well as our mentors, families, and friends. Long-term competitiveness in this program depends so heavily on sense of community… dense networks of support… teams of teams of teams. We could not do it without you on our team. Thank you!

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

Newsletter: Triple Helix on fire! Six regular-season tournament wins in a row

This weekend in Portsmouth, Triple Helix Robotics steamed to another victory on the FRC playing field, captaining our alliance of three teams to bring home our 6th win in a row in official play. The team is now ranked #1 in Virginia, #1 in the Chesapeake District, #14 in the US, and #17 worldwide.

Triple Helix won the event alongside two alliance partners from Richmond: 5804 TORCH from the Collegiate School and, 539 Titan Robotics from Trinity Episcopal School.

The judges at the event also recognized Triple Helix with the Autonomous Award– our second such honor this season! Owed greatly to our high performance in the autonomous mode, our win-loss-tie record now stands at 31-5-0 for the season.

The team greatly appreciated the strong support of our parents and friends at this event– thanks to all the visitors who stopped by and wished us luck! We definitely needed it, as this event was by no means a cake walk. In addition to the exciting competition from several strong opponents, we struggled with a strange low-level software issue that sometimes caused our robot’s processor to reboot mid-match. This issue even appeared in our finals matchup against the powerful #2 seed alliance captained by 3136 ORCA and featuring the heavy-hitting cone scorer 1599 Circuitree.

The team will be working on stomping this bug– as well as continuing to reap the benefits of extensive practice with our robot at the Peninsula STEM Gym operated by Intentional Innovation Foundation– as we prepare for the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship on April 5-8 in Fairfax, VA.

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

Newsletter: Triple Helix starts the competition season with a win in Blacksburg!

This weekend, Triple Helix Robotics traveled to Blacksburg for our first district qualifier event of the 2023 FIRST Robotics Competition season, and WON THE EVENT alongside partner teams 401, 1915, and 3373 against a field of 30 other contenders from VA, MD, and DC.

[The winning alliance of four teams. Courtesy of 401.]

Our robot “Genome Xi” demonstrated reliable autonomous routines and highly polished teleoperated (student-driven) scoring throughout the event. In the qualification rounds, Triple Helix claimed an early lead and held onto our #1 ranking throughout the event, locking in our position as the captains of the #1 seed alliance.

[Average points scored in auto + endgame (Y axis) and teleop (X axis) by all FRC teams worldwide as of the end of Week 1 of competition season. Via]

Triple Helix was also awarded the Autonomous Award for our technical leadership in translating advanced control techniques into points scored on the playing field during real matches. The judges said:

The Autonomous Award sponsored by Ford celebrates the team that has demonstrated consistent, reliable, high-performance robot operation during autonomously managed actions. Evaluation is based on the robot’s ability to sense its surroundings, position itself or onboard mechanisms appropriately, and execute tasks. Their triple-performing play impressed the judges. This team consistently scored two cones in autonomous. Control theory is in their genes!

Our stunning performance in this qualifier event means that we are very likely to punch a ticket to the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA on April 6-8.

Fans of Triple Helix Robotics are invited to cheer us on at our next qualifier, at Churchland High School in Portsmouth, VA on March 18-19. The event is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. You can also watch the event steaming live at, and dive into our stats at

Thanks to FIRST Chesapeake, the host team FRC 401 Copperhead Robotics, a really stellar crew of Triple Helix parents, and all our wonderful sponsors for making this weekend’s experience possible! We could not do this without your steadfast support.

Nate Laverdure
Head coach, Triple Helix Robotics

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics is playing CHARGED UP

Happy new year!

Triple Helix is playing CHARGED UP
This FIRST Robotics Competition season, Triple Helix is playing “CHARGED UP”, a pick & place-style game featuring two different game pieces (perfectly colored– purple and yellow!!) which must be scored in a large array at the near end of the field. For bonus points, we must balance our robot on a teeter-totter… both autonomously and while under driver control.

Today the team met for Part I of our game analysis and strategic design discussion. This year’s game looks challenging, with several new shapes of objects to manipulate, some tricky strategic tradeoffs, and a nailbiting endgame. It should be a fun game to watch and play.

Field construction at the Peninsula STEM Gym is underway
At our shared robotics practice facility, we are preparing to build full-scale wooden mockups of the field elements. We can still use additional construction help, which requires only basic woodworking skills. Please join us in the #stemgym channel on our team Slack to learn more.

We’ve locked in our event schedule
Triple Helix aims to compete at up to four FRC events this spring. Hope to see you there as a spectator or a volunteer!

– March 3-5: FIRST Chesapeake District Blacksburg VA event
– March 17-19: FIRST Chesapeake District Portsmouth VA event
– April 6-8: FIRST Chesapeake District Championship, EagleBank Arena, George Mason University, Fairfax VA
– April 19-22: FIRST Championship, Houston TX

Thank you to all our wonderful sponsors!
The team greatly appreciates your support!