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.

_DSC4042.jpg

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.

BUILDING OUR FOUNDATION – TEAM SUSTAINABILITY

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.

SUPPORTING FIRST PROGRAMS

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.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

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.

IT’S IN OUR GENES

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

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.