Newsletter: Triple Helix 1st overall pick & semifinalists in Portsmouth!

Triple Helix students, mentors, and parents came together as a team for a very long– and very fun– weekend that included ranking 6th at the conclusion of qualification rounds and making a strong run into the semifinals as the first pick of #1 alliance captain FRC 190.

At this event we debuted our brand-new Level 2 climb capability, which we employed in each of our elimination matches.  We also found that the robot improvements we made since the Haymarket competition resulted in a more robust climb to the 3rd level of the Habitat, and we continued to make the most of our development time between matches at the event to improve our robot even further.  Our scouting, strategy, and awards presentation teams also did wonderfully, learning from their experience at our previous event to step up their game and deliver an even better product.

Yesterday evening I was reflecting on what happened over the last few days, and I was thinking of this quote from Apollo 16 astronaut Ken Mattingly as quoted in the film For All Mankind:  “We all are in this together as a team effort. We’re going to make it work. And I don’t know how to make it [all] work– I don’t know how to do most of this mission. But I do know, and I can assure you, that my piece of it is going to work. And it won’t fail because of me.”  This weekend, every Triple Helix team member can definitely say this and be extremely proud of their work.

We were also recognized by the judges with the Creativity Award, which is a technical award that celebrates creativity in design, use of component, or strategy of play.  This award is considered part of the set of engineering awards that also features Industrial Design, Quality, Innovation in Control, and Excellence in Engineering.  Triple Helix has won each of those awards in the past, but never Creativity, so this completes the set!  We are now among a VERY small community of teams who have earned all of the engineering awards at some point in their history.  As a team that sees the engineering challenge of FRC as an effective tool for making a difference with our students, we are very happy to receive this award.

At the end of the event, we assisted with teardown of the playing field and earned a (slightly used) carpet in exchange for our help.  Over the summer this carpet will be installed into the Peninsula STEM Gym, replacing the existing carpet which was originally sourced from the 2013 Virginia Regional.

Thanks to FIRST Chesapeake, the host team FRC 3359, Menchville HS, and all our wonderful sponsors for making this weekend’s experience possible!  We are now setting our sights on the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship in early April.


Newsletter: Triple Helix– double medals in Haymarket!

Triple Helix returned victorious last night, having won the FIRST Chesapeake District – Haymarket VA event along with partners 612 and 1731!  After ranking 5th after qualification rounds, we entered eliminations prepared to face a tough battle against great opponents.  Our robot Genome Lambda is technically ambitious, making use of several electromechanical & controls techniques right there on the cutting edge, and we discovered several areas of improvement via an iterative break & repair cycle completed many times over the course of the 2-day event.  We took every eliminations round to 3 matches, finally besting the 2nd-ranked alliance with TWO one-point wins in the final matches, for the hard-fought event win.  It all couldn’t possibly have been more dramatic!

We were also awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award, FIRST’s 2nd-highest honor.  A Texas team that we look up to said recently that they consider EI the “most important award in FRC as it shows you are working in your community to spread STEM in effective ways.”  Here’s what the judges had to say about us:

The Engineering Inspiration Award celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s community. Inspiring others to respect science and technology requires passion, knowledge, and commitment. FIRST celebrates these qualities by presenting its Engineering Inspiration Award. This team embraces the FIRST principle of creating an inclusive space for all. To democratize STEAM, they have turned to YouTube, opened a makerspace, and encouraged all ages to join their team. This team has brains, drive, and passion… which makes them a triple threat. Qualifying to compete for the Engineering Inspiration Award at District Championship, Team 2363!

With this win and award, the team has clinched our berth at the District Championship at GMU in early April.  We’re also probably about 60% of the way to punching our ticket to the FIRST Championship in Detroit in late April.

The team is now preparing for our next event, March 16-17 at Churchland HS in Portsmouth.  We invite everyone to come visit the event to cheer us on!


Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics – build season update

It’s crunch time!  Triple Helix is taking a breath to give our fans a brief update about our status as we test and refine our robot for the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition game: Destination Deep Space.

Our Chairman’s Award submission is in
The Chairman’s Award is the most prestigious award in FIRST, and it honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate. The award recognizes teams who make a significant, measurable impact for their participants and community over a sustained period.  Our essay can be found here.

Peninsula STEM Gym ready to host practices & scrimmages
Because of the incredible efforts of a few volunteers (special thanks to Eric Leatherbury and Russell Moore!), the FRC playing field at our STEM Gym is now equipped to host realistic practice sessions for Hampton Roads teams.  The field has a full-size Habitat, Rocket, Cargo Ship, and human player Feeder Station in place and ready to use.  Triple Helix expects to make great use of the space between each of our upcoming competitions!  Contact us for more information about how your team can use the gym, too.

Let us serve you at the Junior Woman’s Club of Hilton Village Dinner Theater
Triple Helix students will serve dinner at the JWCHV’s 52nd production of the Gaslight Dinner Theatre the evening of Friday, March 8.  See attached flyer for more information about the play!

Thank you to our strategic partner NASA Langley
To be competitive in the FIRST Robotics Competition is a significant undertaking that requires sustained sponsorship from multiple large funding sources, as well as sustained involvement of volunteer mentors. More than a dozen engineers, designers, software developers, and other technical professionals engage with Triple Helix students in hundreds of contact hours each year. Students team up with these mentors to solve challenging competitive long-term technical projects with real requirements and constraints, ultimately winning recognition, gaining self-confidence, developing people and life skills, making new friends, and discovering an unforeseen career path and a lifetime love of STEM.  We wish to share our deep appreciation of our friends at NASA Langley who supported our team’s mission though funding, partnership in outreach, and effective mentoring.

See you at the competitions!
Triple Helix aims to compete at up to four FIRST Robotics Competition events this spring, including three here in Virginia. Hope to see you there!

In addition, you’re welcome drop by any of our team meetings– we’d love to show you what our awesome students have built!  See our team meeting calendar for more information.

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

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

Newsletter: Triple Helix update – December 2018

Triple Helix earns another offseason win at Rumble in the Roads!
In early November, Triple Helix continued to prepare for the upcoming 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition season by competing at (and volunteering to help run) the Rumble in the Roads at Heritage HS in Newport News.  Triple Helix was ready to make a strong comeback in the elimination rounds after being bested in 5 of 6 qualification matches in early play.  We were selected by Team 836, the captain of the 3rd alliance, as their 2nd pick, and together with Team 623 we proceeded through three tough rounds of play to WIN THE EVENT!  This was Triple Helix’s fourth elims teamup with our friends at 623 in three consecutive seasons, and this time we finally came away with the win together.

Thanks to all who were able to visit and watch us on the live webcast– it was great to be cheered on by so many of our alumni, parents, and friends!

5th annual Rumble in the Roads a roaring success
In partnership with our friends at FRC teams 1610 and 5957, Triple Helix hosted the 5th annual Rumble in the Roads on Saturday, November 3.  Located at Heritage High School in Newport News, the event is one of the FIRST Chesapeake region’s premiere offseason FRC robotics competitions.  The event featured 31 high school teams from VA, MD, and NC who competed all day with their 140-pound robots.  Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to running an even better event next year!

The Rumble in the Roads is made possible by generous sponsors including Newport News Shipbuilding, Christopher Newport University, Canon Virginia, Swisslog, Community Knights, and Jefferson Lab.  The event is produced in partnership with FIRST Chesapeake, Newport News Public Schools, and Intentional Innovation Foundation.

Peninsula STEM Gym now open and will serve as a FRC kickoff sub-site
Founded and operated by Triple Helix’s operating sponsor Intentional Innovation Foundation, 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.

The Peninsula STEM Gym was established with the generous assistance of a Community Knights GIFT Grant.
Immediately following the kickoff of the 2019 FRC season on Saturday, January 5, local teams will be able to pick up their Kits of Parts from the Peninsula STEM Gym.  Thanks to FIRST Chesapeake for making this possible.
Community members wishing to contribute financially to the Peninsula STEM Gym are invited to sponsor the purchase of a chair.  Sponsors of chairs will be invited to attach customized brass name plaques to their chairs at the open house.

Triple Helix sweatshirts now available in our web store
For a limited time, we are gathering orders for this season’s Triple Helix hoodies to be delivered early next year!

Thank you to BAE Systems and new sponsor Lockheed Martin
Triple Helix wishes to share our appreciation of Lockheed Martin, which has provided our team a $2,000 grant.  Thank you for your generous support!

In addition, Triple Helix is extremely happy that BAE Systems has returned as a sponsor of our team this year by awarding a $1,000 grant.  BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair has been a longtime friend and partner of the team since at least 2010.

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

Converting Festo’s flow rate spec to Cv

Festo gives the flow rate through their solenoid valves in terms of “standard nominal flow rate”. What does this mean? How does it compare with other valves on the market?

Here’s a spreadsheet that converts the specified flow rate (which is actually a mass flow rate even though it’s in units of volume/time) into a flow coefficient or Cv. This lets you directly compare the size of the valve to other vendors’ stuff.


Chief Delphi discussion