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.

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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.

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We have truly found world-class performance this year. By several metrics we are among the top 10 teams internationally.

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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.

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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

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics annual report

With just 2 months to go until kickoff of the 2022 FIRST Robotics Competition, we look back on a year that– despite its hardships– was also full of improbable victories.

Intentional Innovation Foundation, the nonprofit operating sponsor for Menchville High School’s Triple Helix Robotics team, has published our annual report for the July 2020 – June 2021 fiscal year.

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http://team2363.org/2021/10/2020-2021-annual-report/
The report captures the many stellar recent accomplishments of our flagship competitive youth STEM program:

Triple Helix appreciates our gracious sponsors who make our award-winning program possible, and we look forward to an even more impressive 2022!

Join our team – Donate – Donate in-kind


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

Newsletter: Triple Helix completes all the “Infinite Recharge @ Home” Skills Challenges

Throughout the spring, Triple Helix students and mentors used socially-distanced and virtual meeting spaces to compete in Infinite Recharge at Home, a set of skills challenges laid out by FIRST in lieu of traditional tournaments.

We are proud to announce that after one last late night at the Peninsula STEM Gym, we’ve wrapped up our submissions and sent them in to FIRST!

Because of our hard work, our results are among the best in the world.  We currently stand [1] at 4th place in our randomly-assigned group of 29 teams, just behind teams from Seattle, Long Island, and Windsor Locks CT.  We’re also currently [2] the highest-ranked Virginia team, and somewhere in the top 50 out of all 1100+ teams competing.

These results are quite spectacular, especially considering that we’ve done our work completely openly, updating our youtube channel every time we have a new “best to date” score to share.  You can find all the materials we submitted to FIRST– a presentation about the software development work we’ve done, a flyer about our robot, and much more– at our publications site team2363.org/publications.

Thanks to all the participating students and mentors, and everyone who helped us do such great work during a weird time– especially the parents and our sponsors!  We look forward to an upcoming FIRST Chesapeake award ceremony on May 4, and a restful offseason full of…

  • Competition with our FPV quadcopters
  • software development leveraging what we have learned through these skills challenges
  • Recruiting new students and mentors to our team
  • Reopening our Menchville HS workshop for business as usual as soon as we can!

Nate

[1] Official scores and rankings will be available from FIRST on April 23.
[2] These are unofficial rankings taken ahead of this afternoon’s submittal deadline.

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics – October 2020 update

Here’s what Triple Helix has been up to this month!

Our internal drone competition is off the ground
Triple Helix students and mentors are flying their quadcopters at home and at the Peninsula STEM Gym, several team members having assembled their kits and configured their transmitters and FPV goggles.  Soon, our team will have a flock of drones in the air, and we’ll start designing some game challenges so we can put our new flying skills to the test.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at8Hj10BHWQ

We still have room for new team members!  If you are a high school student on the peninsula (or an aspiring mentor to a peninsula HS student!) and would like to join Triple Helix and participate in our FPV drone competition, you’re invited to:

  • Register with the team via join.team2363.org (this is an annual requirement for all students and mentors).
  • Register with the FAA as a drone operator under The Exception for Recreational Flyers at https://faadronezone.faa.gov/. The cost is $5 for 3 years of registration.
  • Join us on the team Slack where you will learn how you can pick up your kit of parts and start the process of building your quad!

We’re also meeting virtually on Google Meet on Tuesday evenings at 7pm— you are welcome to join us there!

Triple Helix is registered to compete in the 2021 FRC season– whatever that entails
Thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors, but especially our longtime partners DoD STEM and NASA Langley Research Center, we have secured our registration in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition season, which we think will be mostly made up of a number of interesting virtual challenges and projects.  We’re excited to learn more about the season as we get closer to the January 9 kickoff, and of course we still hold out hope that we’ll be able to compete safely next spring/summer in some in-person FIRST Chesapeake events playing a slightly updated version of the 2020 FRC game.

Nate

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics – September 2020 update

Triple Helix Robotics wishes everyone well! We’re proud to share the following long-overdue updates about our team…

Triple Helix returns to flight with a FPV drone competition
http://team2363.org/2020/09/triple-helix-returns-to-flight-with-a-fpv-drone-competition/As Triple Helix Robotics begins a new school year, our team leaders have been thinking about how we’ll accomplish the goals of the team– inspiring students with STEM– within the restrictions placed on us by the pandemic we’re all living through. We have decided to expand beyond the scope of the FIRST Robotics Competition by starting a new (and mostly remote) parallel program which we’re calling the Tele-Operated Robotics Competition (TORC). This is intended as an internal tech challenge within Triple Helix involving small robotic vehicles which can be built by students and mentors at home, occasionally visiting the Peninsula STEM Gym for guidance from mentors and access to specialized tools. We looked at multiple options for the robot platform and went with the option the students were most excited about: “CineWhoopclass” first-person view (FPV) quadcopters.
How can I get involved in the Triple Helix drone competition?Students and mentors interested in participating in our Tele-Operated Robotics Competition are invited to:

  • Register with the team via join.team2363.org (this is an annual requirement for all students and mentors).
  • Register with the FAA as a drone operator under The Exception for Recreational Flyers at https://faadronezone.faa.gov/. The cost is $5 for 3 years of registration.
  • Join us on the team Slack where you will learn how you can pick up your kit of parts and start the process of building your quad!

Our first skills-building activity will be assembling a battery pack required to power the goggles you wear to see the video feed from the onboard camera. Building this pack will teach you the soldering skills you will need to wire the quadcopter.

Peninsula STEM Gym re-opens serving FRC, FTC, and indoor drone competition teams
http://team2363.org/locations/#stemgym
The STEM Gym has moved into a new warehouse, but we’re still located at the same address in central Newport News. Our new setup offers us a location for continued development of our FRC robot for the extended Infinite Recharge season, as well as enough meeting and office spaces to support an adequately socially-distanced STEM program. We’re also offering a complete FTC field for any of our friends who are playing the new FTC game ULTIMATE GOAL, and over the next few weeks we’ll also be building an aerodrome for our FPV drone challenge! Thanks to all who have supported this new evolution of our innovative STEM Gym space.

Nate

Newsletter: Peninsula STEM Gym seeks new home

Menchville High School’s competitive robotics team Triple Helix competes in a STEM sport where the shape and structure of the official playing field changes each year.  Prior to establishing the Peninsula STEM Gym in fall 2018, the team’s first opportunity each season to see & touch the playing field was when the team arrived at their first tournament of the year.  (Imagine playing an athletic sport competitively without the benefit of practicing on a court!)

Since that time, the Peninsula STEM Gym in central Newport News has offered local student robotics teams a 2,500 square foot practice area for testing robot functionality and improving their game. The facility has enabled teams to gain driving practice, discover ways to iterate and improve their robot designs, and better prepare to compete against other top Virginia teams as well as on the world stage.

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, the STEM Gym provides an indispensable service for the students of the Peninsula.

Triple Helix Robotics and our supporting nonprofit organization Intentional Innovation Foundation is now seeking a new home for the STEM Gym, and we ask for your help in identifying suitable locations.

STEM Gym location requirements

  • Situated on the Peninsula
  • 30×75 FT flat and level open space without columns or other interruptions
  • 12 FT minimum ceiling height, ideally higher
  • Accessible by any local youth STEM team who would like to use it for practice
  • Accessible at all hours (especially evenings and weekends) with little advance notice
  • Availability of 110VAC power & internet

Nice-to-haves, that would be an improvement over the STEM Gym’s current location, include:

  • Heat
  • Parking
  • Standard dock-height loading dock 

STEM Gym highlights
In addition to serving as the main practice space for Triple Helix Robotics, the STEM Gym provided a gathering and testing location for Newport News and Hampton City Schools competitive robotics teams on more than 27 occasions in calendar year 2019.

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During summer 2019, the STEM Gym served as the home base for a unique collaboration between local teams who met weekly to prototype a mobile target robot for the Newport News Police Department shooting range.

The STEM Gym is itself collaborative project, too. A Community Knights GIFT Grant amplified Triple Helix’s existing funding and enabled the team to establish the facility. Newport News Shipbuilding generously donated the full-size FTC field border and the first set of FRC game elements. The NASA Knights, FRC team 122, contributed much of the lumber that was used to fashion full-scale wooden mockups of the FRC game elements for the past two seasons.

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The STEM Gym also hosted an FLL Kick-off event, which provided local teams an opportunity to review the playing field, discuss game rules and robot design options, and speak to three local professionals about their areas of expertise relevant to the FLL research project.

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

Newsletter: Triple Helix: Finalists and EI Award winners in Northern VA!

Triple Helix Robotics were two-time medalists at the FIRST Chesapeake district tournament held this weekend in Haymarket, VA.

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Of the 38 teams competing, Triple Helix was ranked 4th at the conclusion of qualifying rounds, demonstrating top-tier Power Cell scoring capability in both the teleoperated and autonomous modes of play, as well as the ability to balance out alliance partner robots when hanging from the Generator Switch.  Triple Helix was proud to be the first overall pick of the alliance selections, where the top 8 ranked teams choose their two partners to play with in the elimination rounds.  Together with partners 623 and 686, our alliance proceeded through to the final rounds, where we eventually lost to the high-powered 2nd seed alliance of 4472, 1895, and 2421.

Our team was awarded the Engineering Inspiration award, which FIRST considers a 2nd highest honor, but Triple Helix considers a top honor. The award recognizes our team for our work advancing STEM in our community in interesting and effective ways. The judging process for EI is somewhat inscrutable, but it’s probably reflective of an overall impression that the entire corps of judges got from their interactions our entire team over the course of the event, including our Chairman’s Award and Dean’s List interviews as well as many many visits to our pit.

Based on our great performance in Haymarket, we have clinched our berth at the District Championship at the Hampton Coliseum in early April.

For the first time in the team history, Triple Helix can now say that we’re entering somewhat of a home stand, as we look forward to playing our next two events close to home, starting with our next event at Churchland HS in Portsmouth on March 14-15.  We invite everyone to come visit the event to cheer us on!

Nate

Newsletter: Triple Helix Robotics early build season update

It’s nearing the end of Week 1 of this year’s build season and the team is off to a great start.  We’ve spent some time absorbing the new game challenge, chosen a gameplay strategy, and 

This year’s game looks great, with several new types of interactive game elements, some tricky strategic tradeoffs, and a nailbiting endgame.  It should be a fun game to watch and play.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmiYWTmFRVE

Errata from December newsletter
Triple Helix aims to compete at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship sponsored by Newport News Shipbuilding on April 3-5 at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, VA.

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 prior to the competitions!  Orders must be in by the January 20th deadline.https://store.iifound.org/product/sweatshirt/

Field construction at the Peninsula STEM Gym is underway
At our shared robotics practice facility, we have built full-scale wooden mockups of the Power Port (the goal) and the Trench (a robot tunnel that also holds a colored spinning Control Panel wheel).  We can still use additional help constructing these mockup game elements; this requires only basic woodworking skills.

The Peninsula STEM Gym will also host a robot pre-inspection day on February 22nd.  All local teams are invited.  This event is a great opportunity for teams and volunteer Robot Inspectors to prepare for the first round of competitions.

Our VCU Occupational Therapy doctoral student has begin their capstone practicum semester
For the 2nd year, Triple Helix and Intentional Innovation Foundation welcomes to our team a student from the occupational therapy doctoral program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  For their semester-long capstone “Doctoral Experiential Component” (DEC), this student will join us as a mentor while also learning the skills and tools at the intersection between therapy and engineering.  Together we’ll be extending the previous work of last year’s student, completing some awesome assistive technology projects, and establishing strong connections between our robotics team and the local allied health community.  Welcome Sierra Taylor Wolf!


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