Triple Helix Robotics mentor Nate Laverdure details the history and future of the FIRST Robotics Competition in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.
This spring, Triple Helix partnered with an occupational therapy doctoral student from Virginia Commonwealth University to develop assistive devices for people in the Hampton Roads region. Through communication with the Children’s Assistive Technology Service (CATS) a need was identified for a modified ride-on toy car, based on the University of Delaware’s GoBabyGo project. This project aims to provide access to low-cost mobility devices for young children without other means of exploring their environment. In this case, the recipient was a young girl who does not have the ability to move her lower extremities as a result of a birth defect.
To provide access to the car’s controls, a 5-inch switch was mounted on the steering column and wired via a relay switch to the car’s motor to replace the foot pedal function. Additionally, PVC handles were added on each side of the center switch for more ergonomic steering control. To also allow for simultaneous propulsion and steering, the handles fit over a laser-cut Lexan frame which, when flexed, activate an additional limit switch on each side of the steering column. This design concept can be applied to other ride-on cars, depending on a particular child’s needs and functional abilities.
One of the topics which has come up repeatedly in 2363’s after-competition lessons learned meetings is how confusing it is for non-FIRSTers to attend FRC events. Triple Helix has produced a simple tri-fold brochure that can be handed to your non-FIRSTer visitors, team parents, grandparents, sponsors, etc. It doesn’t answer every question they will have. But, hopefully you will get fewer “I had no idea what was happening” comments from your visitors.
One side has general info that’s common to all FRC events. The other side has game specific info. Feel free to print these up, hand them out, and make FRC events more enjoyable for your guests.
Intentional Innovation Foundation announces the founding of the Peninsula STEM Gym, 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. Establishment of the Peninsula STEM Gym is made possible in part by a generous Community Knights GIFT Grant.
Located in central Newport News, the Peninsula STEM Gym offers local student robotics teams a 2,500 square foot practice area for testing robot functionality against the same field elements as they’ll encounter at real competitions. The facility will enable teams to gain driving practice, discover ways to iterate and improve their robot designs, and become better prepared to compete against other top Virginia teams as well as on the world stage. Four Peninsula student robotics teams, with an average of 20 students each, plan to use the STEM Gym to practice for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in spring 2019.
By enabling these students to better practice their sport in a STEM Gym, we increase the likelihood that they can “turn pro” upon graduation, entering career fields which reward the communication and leadership skills that they learn through existing mentor-based robotics competitions.
“This is going to fundamentally change our approach to both software development and also drive team practice” says Todd Ferrante, drive team coach of Triple Helix Robotics, the competitive robotics team at Menchville High School in Newport News. “It really is a game changer.” Donald Williams, the head teacher and coach of the Phantom Mentalists, Phoebus High School’s team in Hampton, says: “The students need practice driving the robot to perform well in competitions, just like any other sport. FRC is a sport like any other at the high school level. It is just a sport for the budding engineers, programmers and manufacturing.”
Intentional Innovation Foundation, Inc. transforms students and our community into evangelists for science and technology by providing them life-changing opportunities to experience these subjects as a thrilling, challenging competition. The Newport News nonprofit organization recognizes that developing the future engineering workforce requires a culture shift that makes engineering “cool” again.
Community Knights, Inc. is committed to identifying the needs of small local nonprofit and public school organizations as well as the populations they serve and finding innovative ways to help them meet these needs collaboratively. The nonprofit organization is also dedicated to identifying service gaps for underserved populations within our community and, through the development of a nonprofit incubator, support and educate start up organizations to fill unmet needs within the Virginia Peninsula community.
The Peninsula STEM Gym is located at 11516 Jefferson Ave Unit #2, Newport News, VA 23601.
Those wishing to get involved with the Peninsula STEM Gym are invited to attend the first Open House to be held on Saturday, November 17, 2018 from 2pm to 6pm at the facility.
Community members wishing to contribute financially to the Peninsula STEM Gym are invited to sponsor the purchase of a chair. Task chairs will be grouped around workbenches lining one wall of the facility, providing a comfortable working environment for students to explore concepts in group problem-solving and teamwork. Sponsors of chairs will be invited to attach customized brass name plaques to their chairs at the inaugural open house of the STEM Gym on Saturday, November 17, 2018.
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.
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.
After each competition, 2363 holds a “lessons learned” meeting where we discuss what we did right and what needs improving. One thing we noted was how awesome our airship pilot is. We noted that she makes better decisions than the audience. At the end of one match, our 3rd rotor was spinning, we had 4 gears needed to get the 4th rotor, and the horn sounded. Rather than waste time pulling up a gear with no value, she chose to drop the ropes instead. Of course the whole time the crowd was shouting, “Gear! Gear!” To honor her decision making skills under pressure, at our next meeting we presented her with a set of Airship Pilot’s Wings.
Has your airship pilot earned their wings?
Triple Helix’s 6×12 cargo trailer is available for other school and nonprofit groups to borrow. We’ve prepared a short document with important information about the trailer and some requirements for the tow vehicle.
What better way to “make it loud” than with a car themed for your robotics team? With a thumping custom audio system, of course…
GuamFIRST is an imaginary FIRST local Franchise Organization located in the Western Pacific. In GuamFIRST, program decisions are made in the overriding interest of creating excellent student outcomes in a sustainable way.