Instructional videos

2363 builds a drivetrain

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When we recruit new students, one of our favorite lines is, “Nobody who joins the team knows how to build a robot. We’ll teach you.” As an established team, we go to competitions and see younger teams, some of whom don’t have engineering mentors, struggling to learn lessons we have learned the hard way. We see our role in growing FRC as helping those struggling teams become better more quickly, so they remain inspired, and don’t fold.

Last fall our students came up with the idea of producing a series of instructional videos. These would teach our incoming rookies the skills they would need to be productive robot builders. We see this video series, and the ones which will follow, as a tool which can help educate inexperienced students on our own team as well as other teams across FRC.

Video series

Chief Delphi post


Chairman’s Award video 2018

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This video was provided to judges as part of our submission for the 2018 Chairman’s Award.  Triple Helix received the Chairman’s Award at the FIRST Chesapeake District – Hampton Roads event at Churchland High School in Portsmouth.  Here’s what the judges had to say about our team:

The Chairman’s Award is the most prestigious award in FIRST. It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST. The Chairman’s Award is presented to the team judged to have the most significant, measurable impact on its partnership among its participants and community over a sustained period, not just a single build season. The winners will demonstrate progress towards FIRST’s mission of transforming our culture. The recipient team will be invited to the District Championship where it will compete for the Chairman’s Award against other winners from other qualifying events and compete with their robot.

This team’s effort to spread the word about FIRST and STEM stretched from Richmond to Virginia Beach and dozens of locations in between. They have held events at local universities, a military base, other federal facilities, a tourist attraction, a professional association, museums, and even a public garden. This team helped stand up new FRC teams, supported rookie teams, helped revitalize an existing team, mentored additional teams, and held a popular off-season event. They also support an FTC team, and mentor and support four FLL teams, pulling triple duty for their work with FIRST. Hosting a round-table and summer camp, participating in a variety of STEM events, giving presentations to STEM-related organizations, and leveraging social media to reach a broader audience, clearly inspiring today’s youth to embrace science, technology, engineering, and math is embedded deep within this team’s DNA.



3D printing for therapists

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Triple Helix presented at the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association’s 2018 School System Symposium.  The focus of our presentation was how therapy professionals can use skills and tools of “makers,” including 3d printing, to make customized products for interventions with their patients.  Our partner in this presentation was Maryland FTC team Green Machine Reloaded; this team presented on their work with the Go Baby Go program.

Abstract: “Makers” use the engineering problem solving process, and their hands, to bring their ideas to life. The competitive high school FIRST robotics teams Triple Helix Robotics and Green Machine Reloaded share the makerspace techniques to rapidly design and create assistive devices. The two teams will demonstrate the tools and technical skills used to 3D print small plastic objects as well as how to modify ride-on toy cars to create low-cost adapted mobility equipment.



Woodie Flowers submission 2018

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Triple Helix students are proud to publish this Woodie Flowers Award nominating essay for our mentor Todd Ferrante.

Todd Ferrante has been a dedicated mentor to our team since 2011. As a systems integration engineer at NASA Langley, he is beyond well-equipped to teach and inspire a love of engineering in students. Through his abilities to motivate, communicate, and problem solve, his patience with students and mentors, and his willingness to lead, he has developed our team culture into one of universal respect, professionalism, and unending support.

Mr. Ferrante is a master of motivation. “He encourages everyone to give their own ideas and opinions. If you ask him how something will be done, instead of telling you, he asks you how you think it should be done,” says Justin. “He always makes sure we know what we’re doing. At competitions, he calmly talks to us about what he thinks may be wrong. If someone messes up, he will help them find a solution calmly. He never blames anyone for anything,” says Aaron. Any question asked is answered to the best of his ability and given his full attention. “He values the opinions of everyone and never dismisses any idea or question,” says Adam.

Mr. Ferrante’s ability to communicate has led him to become the drive team coach, in addition to his role as a mechanical subteam mentor. “He’s always super proud of every match, even if we perform poorly. He’s very nice about correcting our mistakes, and when we all get really tired he keeps us focused,” says Rachel. “ Even if we lose a match, he’s always at the sidelines, cheering us on, and is happy at what we accomplished,” says Gabe.

Mr. Ferrante is dedicated to creating an encouraging and healthy team environment. “He can correct you with a kind word, and encourage you to do better, even when you are giving it your all. Mr. Ferrante has, in all probability, corrected me hundreds of times. But I always welcomed it, and needed it, because he showed me how to be better through positive reinforcement. He was the perfect leader for a drive team, because he could keep a level head to give us coherent feedback, and also figured out how to convey that feedback in a positive way,” says alumnus Aaron. “He’s always very happy when he’s at meetings. He consistently does his best to create a positive environment for all of the students and welcomes everyone with open arms. He pushes us to do everything we can and make the most out of every situation. He never backs down from a challenge and brings his A-Game to any situation he’s thrown into,” says Adam.

One essay will never be enough room for us to express our gratitude for all of the heart and soul Mr. Ferrante has poured into our team. His constant dedication and enthusiasm for Triple Helix and FIRST have gone beyond the scope of mentorship. He’s become a role model and inspiration to everyone he’s worked with, and has changed our team from a group of nerds to a family. As each year produces more graduates, our family grows, and with it our awareness of how lucky we are to work with such an exceptional mentor as Todd Ferrante.


Fundamental resource archive

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Compiled by mentor Nate Laverdure in fall 2016, this document lists the top resources that have been helpful in his growth as an engineer and a mentor.  They are representative of his interests and opinions, and therefore lean towards mechanical systems and fabrication techniques.

Taken together, they constitute his idea of an archive of fundamental resources (papers, presentations, videos, websites, etc) which are essential to being “good at robots” in modern FRC. The idea isn’t quite right– in truth, every team has the capability for designing and fielding excellent winning robots regardless of how well-developed their library of knowledge is. However, compiling these resources gives new FRC designers a significant leg up by rapidly exposing them from lessons learned from hundreds of people, some of them with over two decades of experience in this competitive robotics program.

The biggest thing to learn from these resources is simple: that nothing in FRC is so complex or far advanced that it can’t be understood by anyone willing to put in the time to understand it.