Press release: Peninsula STEM Gym provides practice opportunities for Hampton Roads youth robotics teams

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.

3D printing for therapists

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.


Airship pilot wings

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?

Chief Delphi post

The GuamFIRST Files

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.

Your Path to Advancement from Student to Key Volunteer – March 2016 – Document, Chief Delphi discussion

Working and Winning as an Alliance: Making the most of your playoff experience at GuamFIRST events – March 2017 – Document, CD discussion

Position Description: GuamFIRST FRC Senior Mentor – December 2017 – Document, CD discussion

GuamFIRST FRC Rookie Application – March 2019 – Document, CD discussion

Grantmaking Using Actionable Metrics (GUAM) – August 2019 – Document, CD Discussion