Press release: Triple Helix seeking workspace

Award-winning high school robotics team Triple Helix Robotics is seeking a new workspace on the Peninsula.

Based at Menchville High School in Newport News since 2007, the volunteer-led team has leveraged the high-energy challenge of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) to deliver life-changing STEM experiences to the region’s students for over 16 years.

As a result of changing security postures following the gun violence that occurred in and around Newport News schools last school year, the school district has adopted a set of risk mitigation policies. As an unfortunate consequence, volunteer access to the Triple Helix workshop has been tightly restricted, making the team’s continued operation from the high school impracticable. A workable solution to maintain the relationship could not be found even after lengthy discussion.

FRC is a high school sport just like any other, aside from two key differences: (1) our student athletes practice in a machine shop rather than on a court, and (2) all of our players can “go pro,” entering the STEM degree programs and careers that will cement them as leaders of the Hampton Roads knowledge economy for the next generation. Last season, Triple Helix ranked in the top 1% of teams worldwide, was recognized by the NNPS school board, and appeared in the local press alongside our government, corporate, and community sponsors.

Triple Helix’s success in reaching our young people has, since its founding, attracted and sustained the engagement of major sponsors, bringing in over $800,000 of community investment over the last eight years. Our high-tech machine sport also attracts the volunteerism of local industry professionals, who not only share tangible STEM skills with our students, but also impart a real understanding of what a rewarding STEM career will look and feel like. The FIRST Robotics Competition program also makes our students fluent with professional-grade tools and software that are far more likely to be found in small engineering firms than in a classroom.

Because of our stakeholders’ continued belief in the importance of the Triple Helix program, we are looking for a new home for the team. The team requires approximately 650 sqft of machine shop, assembly, and storage space (currently donated), as well as about 2400 sqft of practice field space (currently rented at $900/mo). Access to power, internet, and bathrooms is required. The team’s normal hours are weekdays 6-9pm and weekends 9am – 6pm, although off-hours access is occasionally needed as well. The team’s nonprofit sponsor, Intentional Innovation Foundation, maintains liability insurance. Triple Helix’s volunteer mentors pass multiple background checks through their employers as well as the FIRST Youth Protection Program.

To offer a suggestion of a new workspace for the team, or to request more information, please contact Triple Helix at

Triple Helix featured on FirstUpdatesNow’s “Behind the Bumpers”

First Updates Now (FUN) caught up with Triple Helix at the 2023 FIRST Championship and filmed a Behind the Bumpers interview, exploring our 2023 robot Genome Xi.

2363 Triple Helix Robotics had a clean sweep through districts and DCMP with their Charged Up robot’s steady virtual 4 bar arm. Hear about their design process changes, custom vision system and path planning which is free for teams on Behind the Bumpers.

Triple Helix Robotics featured in Daily Press

Next-level experience: Hampton Roads robotics team looks back on ‘most competitive’ season yet

By Gavin Stone
Daily Press
May 7, 2023 at 11:08 am

Triple Helix team members operate their robot during a match in the 2023 FIRST Championship. (Todd Ferrante)

Things didn’t go quite their way at the world robotics championship in Houston, but for the team of Hampton Roads high school students, it’s not about winning.

Triple Helix Robotics, a NASA-sponsored collection of students based out of Menchville High School in Newport News, competed in April’s FIRST Championship — which brings together more than 600 teams from 18 different countries to see whose robot is best. Qualifying for worlds has become part of the culture of Triple Helix in recent years, doing so roughly every other year, though this was only the second time they’ve attended the event since 2017.

They wowed the judges despite their early elimination, taking home the Innovation and Control Award for their robot’s performance in the autonomous portion of the contest. They also earned awards for autonomous performance at four other competitions this season. Dating to last season, they’ve won seven straight regular-season competitions and have captured the district championship two years in a row.

The level of skill in Houston was so high that no teams stood out from the pack, said Justin Babilino, a senior at York High School and the team captain.

“To me, at the end of this one when we’re sitting there watching the final finals, you look at those robots and you can honestly say, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” said Bill Bretton, who’s been a mentor for the team since 2015. “Previous years we got there and we have a good time and you make it so far but when you watch the finals they’re like ‘pro league’ … but this year we’re right up there and I think we could’ve swapped out for anybody in the finals and I think we could’ve held our own.”

For volunteer head coach Nate Laverdure, the team has never been stronger.

“Overall our competitiveness in the official season has just been over and above anything we’ve done before,” Laverdure said, adding that their ability to communicate what’s special about their robot to the judges was a major factor in their awards for autonomous functions.

Triple Helix team members work on their robot during the 2023 FIRST Championship in Houston. (Todd Ferrante)

According to Statbotics, a site that ranks FIRST Robotics Competition teams, Triple Helix is ranked 34th out of 3,294 teams and first out of 66 in Virginia.

The expectation of success wasn’t built overnight. It grew over years of aggressive recruiting, bringing in middle school students who show a particular talent for robotics, Laverdure said. The use of the STEM Gym in Newport News, which allows robotics teams from across the region to work out the kinks in an open setting, has also helped Triple Helix reach new heights — especially with their autonomous routines.

“If you look at our long-term success over the past few years I think one of the big things that was the difference was once we got the STEM Gym we started competing to a lot higher level,” Babilino said. “If you have a practice space to work out all those little issues with your robot then it just gives you such a huge competitive advantage.”

Laverdure explained that at the championship in Houston, live competition only lasts about 20 minutes total — teams guide their robots to retrieve game pieces and balance on a platform while their opponents try to thwart them — so if you can practice for 20 hours ahead of time “you can totally dominate.”

As much as the team wants to win, strengthening the robotics community takes an even higher priority. Many Triple Helix members are part of a Discord messaging forum where thousands of robotics competitors from around the world work out technical problems and share breakthroughs. All of Triple Helix’s software and much of their mechanical design is open source, meaning its freely available to distribute or modify, according to Laverdure.

A team from Michigan uses Triple Helix’s software, and at least one other squad in their district uses it. But thousands of teams use a swerve joystick kinematic process designed by Triple Helix members, the coach said.

“It feels so much better to kick butt on the playing field when you know that all the competitors also had access to all the same information,” said Laverdure.

“It’s not like we’re not winning because we’re hiding something from people,” Babilino added, “and it really is great to help everyone do better and make the competition more fun in general.”

Through Discord and other means, Josh Nichols, a homeschooled senior and the programming lead for the team, has made contributions to the work of many other teams by sharing his own research.

“That’s really the great part of it is interacting with other teams because really we’re only so many people … but by interacting and working with thousands of teams from across the world online it allows you to develop so much more advanced technology,” Nichols said. “Regardless of the competition outcome, that’s the best part of the competition for me is the actual robot we develop and building something so much more complex and advanced because of this interaction with other people and sharing knowledge.”

Britton saw the students overcome challenges both personal and technical over the course of the season. Quiet students became better leaders, inexperienced students learned new skills, and they had to be resourceful to fix problems during competition.

Late in the district championship, the pivot point in their robot’s arm had begun to warp and sag, causing the chains to loosen on their sprockets. To fix it, they reinforced the arm by cutting up the aluminum legs from a three-legged camping stool someone had in their station and “jammed” it into the center of the arm, Britton said. They later added another piece of steel from Lowe’s.

Those quick fixes were part of the robot throughout the world championship.

“If somebody looked at it they’d never know that anything was different but we look at it and we go, ‘wow, that’s a pretty good fix that lasted’ — it’s just pretty neat. Resourceful,” Britton said.

Britton noted the team’s resilience when, after a strong start in the district championship, they lost a round and had to fight their way out of the losers’ bracket.

“I don’t think anybody said, ‘oh boy this is it’ — they didn’t, they just go, ‘Oh, so it’s just going to take longer,’” he said. “There was never that feeling like they were defeated.”

Triple Helix’s robot, number 2363, carries a cone to their grid to score points in the 2023 FIRST Championship. (Todd Ferrante)

The world championship was also a recruiting ground for many of the top engineering companies and government agencies in the country. Nichols is currently doing an internship with NASA, where he is writing pathfinding algorithms to make robots follow a trajectory from point A to point B — which he said is “incredibly similar” to what he does in robotics competitions.

Britton has seen firsthand the power of having participated in FIRST Robotics Competitions, saying it “opened doors” for both his children while other students were still trying to build their resumés. Employers value the experience with AutoCAD, fabrication, troubleshooting and firsthand knowledge the students gain.

“Both of them had really great opportunities … They get jobs and assignments, projects in college simply because they have tons of experience that their peers don’t have,” Britton said. “If you didn’t do (the robotics competitions) you could completely go through a four-year degree and not do any of that.”

“It surprises me that (robotics teams) aren’t everywhere,” he continued, “I don’t know why every school doesn’t have a team because the way things are so focused on technology and STEM — this is the fast track to get you there.”

Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806,

Triple Helix Robotics featured in Newport News Public Schools newsletter

The Triple Helix robotics team, based at Menchville High School, successfully defended their title as Champions of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Chesapeake District (VA/MD/DC) in Fairfax April 6-8 and advanced to compete at the World Championship in Houston.

The judging panel at the District Championship also recognized Triple Helix with the Innovation in Control Award, which celebrates innovative control techniques to achieve gameplay functions. This greatly enhanced their performance on the field.

Triple Helix, FRC 2363, won the three-day District Championship alongside alliance partners FRC 1731 Fresta Valley Robotics Club from Warrenton, Virginia, and FRC 2199 Robo-Lions from Finksburg, Maryland. The event featured the top 60 high school FRC teams from Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Over 135 matches were played to determine the winning alliance. Triple Helix is in the process of fundraising to get to the World Championship.

Triple Helix is an all-volunteer organization made up of hardworking students and mentors. The team’s high level of technical competence has enabled them to regularly compete on the world stage. Triple Helix also shares their expertise by providing in-person mentor support, sharing and donating resources, publishing whitepapers, and making conference presentations.

The chief sponsors of Triple Helix include NASA, Army Research Laboratory, DoD STEM, The Boeing Company and Newport News Shipbuilding.

Triple Helix Robotics featured in Daily Press

Newport News robotics team headed to world championship

By Nour Habib
Daily Press
Apr 16, 2023 at 10:44 am

The Triple Helix robotics team is headed to Houston next week after qualifying for the FIRST Championship, an international youth robotics competition.

Triple Helix is based at Menchville High School in Newport News. The team, which also includes members from other Newport News schools as well as homeschooled students and students from York County, qualified for the world championship at the district championship event in Fairfax earlier this month.

Nate Laverdure, the volunteer head coach, said the team consists of 15 students and seven adult mentors. Laverdure, a mechanical engineer at Jefferson Lab, has headed the team since 2015. He says he enjoys working with the students and watching them learn and grow.

“The cool thing about our sport is that we are given a challenge each year and everybody, all the team members, the students and the adults, all can start from a place of not knowing the answer,” he said.

He said game officials release a challenge in January and the teams then start prototyping and testing ideas to see what works. This year’s challenge is a “pick and place” game, in which robots have to collect traffic cones and place them on their respective “grids,” among other tasks, before time runs out. The competition involves portions of “autonomous” play, where robots operate on their own based on pre-programming by the team, as well as portions where students use a remote control to operate the robots.

Josh Nichols, 17, is the software captain of the team. He said a big part of their strategy is to simply out-practice other teams to help them be prepared for anything that can happen on the field. Nichols estimates they’ve logged more than 100 hours of practice on this challenge.

Nichols, who is homeschooled, said he’s been on the team since eighth grade. The experience has factored into his plan to pursue a career in computer engineering.

“I want to be able to try to engineer these systems that can work independently on their own, without human intervention,” he said. Think self-driving cars.

Nichols said part of the excitement about heading to the world championship is that they will get to meet and network with international teams.

“You get to interact with all these people, united by the idea of problem-solving and engineering.

Lucas Powell-Riedl is a junior at Menchville High School and has been a member of the Triple Helix robotics team since 2020. He takes care of the electrical aspects of the robot.

Powell-Riedl, 17, said he enjoys the opportunity to work with the mentors on the team.

“It sets me up with lots of connections that I can use for the future, especially since I plan on going into STEM later.”

But he also said he’s also in it for the fun.

“You get to build something yourself, design something yourself, work with teammates and friends on a project,” he said. “There’s no other thing that I’ve found, no other game, that gives you this freedom.

Laverdure said the team has qualified for the world championship several times previously, but was not always able to go to the event.

“It takes a fair bit of community support,” he said.

The team is currently raising money to help finance the trip, and anyone interested in contributing can visit

The competition will be held April 19-22.

Nour Habib,

Triple Helix Robotics featured in The Virginian-Pilot

Five teams of Hampton Roads students — and the robots they built — make playoffs during regional competition

By Gavin Stone
The Virginian-Pilot
Mar 20, 2023 at 6:34 pm

PORTSMOUTH — A small army of robots — built by teenagers — descended on Portsmouth this weekend to battle for supremacy.

Students from Hampton Roads were among 29 teams from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area who met at Churchland High School to duke it out in a game called Charged Up, which puts teams in a mock energy-storage scenario. This involves collecting cubes and cones, which are added to their respective “grids,” then balancing their robots on a charging platform before time runs out.

Jacob Dizon, left, and Greyson Watts, right, pilot their robot while dressed as knights in the FIRST Robotics competition at Churchland High School in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 18, 2023. The team, NASA Knights, are based in Hampton, Virginia and are sponsored by NASA Langley Research Center. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot)

Teams form alliances for each match and have to work together with students from other schools to win, and these partnerships benefit them in the playoffs when the top-performing teams get to pick who will join them. Students also take on the role of talent scouts, evaluating what their robots’ weaknesses are and identifying teams that can offset them for the best chance of winning.

This spirit of “coopertition” — a mashup of the words cooperation and competition — extends to the sharing of parts to help with repairs for damage sustained during matches, according to David Martin, a mentor for Royal Robotics of Portsmouth.

Of the seven Hampton Roads teams competing this weekend, five made the playoffs, with Triple Helix Robotics out of Menchville High School in Newport News leading the winning alliance in the final round. The teams that qualify for the district championship at George Mason University in April won’t be selected until after the next Charged Up event in Glenn Allen this weekend. All these events lead up to the world championship in Houston the weekend of April 19.

The robot from team Imperial Robotics (4286) attempts to balance on the charging station before time expires, while Triple Helix’s robot (back left) works on adding the cubes and cones to their grid, at the FIRST Robotics competition at Churchland High School in Portsmouth on March 18, 2023. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot)

Each match starts with the robots operating autonomously for 15 seconds to try and score points. Then the students take over — often with a familiar Xbox controller — as chaos ensues. The robots frantically zoom around the playing field and smash into each other over and over while precisely guiding the cones and cubes into their grids.

The students have access to base code and guidelines for certain parts of their robots, but the majority of the construction is the work of the students themselves, Martin said. The students also determine their strategy.

The autonomous portion is where Triple Helix Robotics, which counts NASA among its sponsors, felt it could get out ahead of the competition early. The team’s autonomous performance ultimately won it the Autonomous Award given to the robot with the best ability to sense its surroundings, position itself and execute tasks on its own.

Triple Helix members honed their code at the STEM Gym in Newport News, where they can scrimmage other teams on a replica playing field similar to the one used this weekend, according to head coach Nate Laverdure. He explained that their robot was able to read the barcodes on the grids and use those to triangulate its location, count the rotations of the wheels and calculate its inertia — and use all these data points to guide the robot where it needs to go as accurately as possible.

“These kids are doing stuff that academic researchers are writing their Ph.D. theses on and people in industry are building companies around — there’s companies that are focused on solving exactly the same problems that we’re solving with high school students,” Laverdure said.

Jonathan Buszard, a junior in Triple Helix, said that engineering classwork can only take you so far.

“This is like you’re right in the thick of it, doing all the stuff you’re learning, doing new stuff all the time,” Buszard said.

Another NASA-sponsored team from Hampton Roads, the NASA Knights — a team out of New Horizons Regional Education Center in Hampton who were decked out in makeshift suits of armor — said they spent about 14 hours per week on their robot. Freshman Grace Walker said she put in a total of about 300 hours in their shop last year during the season and offseason.

“It was pretty much my second home,” Walker said. “I was like, ‘Oh I’m back here again, might as well build a robot.’”

Royal Robotics out of Churchland High School improved on its performance at the previous competition, during which it broke its robot’s claw almost immediately. This time it employed a simpler grabbing mechanism using a pneumatic system that simply squeezed two metal bars together, and worked out some new code for the autonomous portion that paid dividends on Sunday.

Robots battle for rank at the FIRST Robotics competition at Churchland High School in Portsmouth on March 18, 2023. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot)

Going into the weekend Royal Robotics wanted to have all three of its alliance’s robots balanced on the charge station, which is worth a lot of points because of the coordination it requires, but one of its allies’ robots knocked another ally’s robot off the charge station in the process, explained Ray Clause, a senior at Churchland High School and build captain. Clause said he tends to focus on gathering the cubes and stealing them from the other alliance when he can, “because that’s just the kind of person I am.”

Not only are students applying what they’ve learned in school and putting those concepts into action, they’re also learning complex social skills that will serve them later in life, Martin explained.

“It’s been very rewarding seeing the kids grow and just being able to learn stuff, some kids come in pretty shy, and getting them to open up — it’s been good,” Martin said. “We’ve had kids that come in who weren’t very social and by the end they’re still not super social but they at least do get more social, and that’s good to see.”

Chris Wilson, a sophomore at Churchland and the programmer for Royal Robotics, said he was completely uninitiated in basic physics concepts, but now he’s got a working knowledge of them.

“Two years ago when I first joined, when they were mentioning things like torque and force and centers of gravity — I didn’t know a thing,” Wilson said, “but now I’m like, ‘OK, I understand what stuff is and how it works.’”

Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806,

Triple Helix featured in Jefferson Lab news

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) featured the following news story:


Jefferson Lab’s Nate Laverdure volunteers as the head coach of Triple Helix, a high school robotics team shooting to success this year

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Excitement fills the air on game day for Triple Helix Robotics, a team of about 12 students and their seven adult mentors headquartered at Menchville High School in Newport News, VA.

“The energy is enormous,” said Nate Laverdure, who volunteers as head coach of the team year-round in addition to working as a cryogenics mechanical engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.  

A day of matches lies ahead, but it’s not the team members that will be on the field. Instead, the students will control a robot they spent the last three months designing, building and testing. 

These matches are part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, a worldwide league that releases a new game in January of each year before its competitive events begin in March.  

“All these teams have been working hard in their shops, solving these problems and figuring out how to play a game that nobody has ever played before. They are super excited to bring their solution and see how it does in competition,” Laverdure said. “It’s thrilling.”

Like many sports, the games that FIRST comes up with typically involve shooting balls into a goal for points. (But sometimes they entail throwing frisbees or hanging inflatable tubes on pegs.) For the 2022 game, the robots must pick up and shoot oversized tennis balls. Each match is a two-and-a-half-minute scramble to get as many balls as possible of their team’s color into a central goal. There are two alliances, red and blue, with three robots to each alliance. At the end, the robots climb as high as they can up ascending monkey bars to earn extra points.

The robot Triple Helix created for this year’s game is excelling. During matches, it zooms around, sucking balls off the floor and shooting them into the air like a pitching machine.

“Our robot is kind of blowing people out of the water,” Laverdure said. “I think it’s because we were able to design a fairly simple solution.”

The team designed and built their robot within a few weeks after the game was announced. They attribute their success to all the practice they’ve packed in since then.

“We have truly found world-class performance this year,” Laverdure said. “If you look at the stats in different directions, we’re pretty much in the top 15 of 3,700 teams worldwide right now.”

Triple Helix’s robot is so good, the team qualified for the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship, where they joined 60 of the top teams from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC to play the same game. Triple Helix won the 3-day event alongside alliance partners the RoboBees from Hollywood, Maryland, and the Warbots from Vienna, Virginia.

Before their last competition of the regular season, Triple Helix made some upgrades.

“We believe in the iterative engineering design process, so we’re going back and looking at our hypotheses and changing our solution and seeing if that improves our robot,” Laverdure said.

This same iterative design process drew Laverdure to Jefferson Lab after he earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Old Dominion University. Unlike most industry jobs, his work on cryogenic refrigerators at the lab allows him to cover the entire engineering life cycle, from conception to design, implementation and operation.

“I like using feedback from each step to make better and better solutions,” he said.

He instills this same process in Triple Helix members. Laverdure wanted to volunteer with a youth robotics team after graduating from college, because he participated in the FIRST program when he was in high school. His favorite part is watching the students grow—both in their technical abilities and as people.

“I wanted to design and build cool robots with high school kids,” he said. “It’s also really fulfilling when our students and mentors come together to tackle these crazy problems that, initially, nobody knows how to solve.”

Running the team has also taught him about project management and allows him to do the type of hands-on work he doesn’t get to do at the lab.

“I don’t even know where the closest wrench is here,” he said.

Laverdure is not the only one at Jefferson Lab who helps with a youth robotics team: More than a dozen others around the laboratory have volunteered with teams like Triple Helix.  

Triple Helix was supported by the JSA Initiatives Fund from fiscal years 2016 through 2020. Team members have participated in Jefferson Lab’s mentoring and internship programs, and some have even gone on to work at the lab.

Will Sapp, a former Triple Helix team member who is now a mechanical designer at Jefferson Lab, said some of his most memorable moments in high school were with the robotics team.

“Everyone was very diverse in experiences and backgrounds, yet with our common goal, we were able to make it to the world championship with our robot Genome Theta in 2016,” he said. Sapp worked under Laverdure’s guidance while on the team.  

“Nate played an instrumental role in guiding the team,” Sapp said. “It was and is clear that the students’ learning was a high priority for him.”

According to Sapp, Laverdure gave the students full creative freedom, but he was always available when questions arose. He said the team helped cement his career path.  

“It was actually because of my time on the team that made me think to apply here at the lab,” Sapp said.

He said skills he honed on the team, including machining, mechanical assembly, design, programming and electrical, “matched up perfectly with my degree in mechanical engineering technologies and propelled me into the field with confidence.”

Ultimately, getting students interested in STEM is what youth robotics teams are all about.

“We want to raise the profile of STEM as a potential career choice, as something these kids are excited by,” said Laverdure. “And the trick that we’re playing is that we’re making STEM into a sport. It’s not quite ready for prime time, but it’s thrilling in person.”

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be tuning in.

Further Reading (Videos):
Triple Helix’s 2022 robot reveal 
Field-side footage of a match 
An explainer of the FIRST Robotics Competition

By Chris Patrick

Contact: Kandice Carter, Jefferson Lab Communications Office,

Triple Helix featured in Menchville HS student newspaper The Lion’s Roar

A feature article by student reporter — and new Triple Helix teammate! — Danae L appeared in The Lion’s Roar, the student newspaper of Menchville High School.

Danae Ludy, Staff Writer
April 27, 2022

While Menchville is known for its marching band, basketball team, and football team, I would like to shine the spotlight on the unsung champions of Menchville, the Triple Helix Robotics team.

Located in the back of Menchville’s Tech building, the Triple Helix workshop is outfitted with the most professional-grade equipment needed to fabricate an effective FIRST Robotics Competition robot. Students work alongside experienced mentors to develop valuable skills on this equipment. This equipment includes precision metal machining equipment including a 6×26″ manual mill with DRO and a 9×29″ manual lathe, an 80 watt CNC laser cutter designed and built by Triple Helix, and multiple 3D printers.

I had the chance to attend one of their meetings, and it was an experience I will never forget. The atmosphere was filled with creativity and inspiration, and the connection within the team among the students and mentors was astonishing. I got to experience first-hand what it’s like being a part of the team, including playing with the robot and learning how to mold two wires by soldering them. Solder, commonly misspelled as Sauter, is a fusible metal alloy used to create a permanent bond between metal workpieces. The solder is melted to adhere to and connect the pieces after cooling, which requires an alloy suitable for use as the solder has a lower melting point than the pieces being joined. I was also able to explore the workshop while seeing the team in action as they worked on repairs for their award-winning robot.

Although they have the same basic program foundation for actions like driving, each robot is uniquely catered to the challenge of each year that is announced on the kickoff day in January. The competitions take place throughout March and April. This year’s topic was Rapid React where two teams of three groups compete head-to-head to score their cargo balls into the lower and upper hub. They earn additional points if their robots traverse — travel across or through — the rungs of their hangar.

Triple Helix has a team of several mentors that is composed of Bill Bretton, Don Brunk, Cameron Caldwell, Todd Ferrante, Chris Garrity, Jasen Jacobsen, Amy Nichols, and the head coach, Nate Laverdure. According to Ferrante the “mentor philosophy” to teaching the right way has four steps. “I do, you watch. I do, you help. You do, I help. You do, I watch.”

The team includes students from Menchville, York High, Warwick High, Tabb High, Poquoson High, and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and School.  The innovative and inventive Triple Helix robotics team is one of the best teams in the DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area.

According to their webpage, the “Triple Helix is the competitive robotics team of Menchville High School in Newport News, Virginia. They compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition as Team 2363.” Triple Helix was founded in September 2007 by its founding partner, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, to expand student access to scientific and technical education at Menchville. The team also represents one of its other well-known partners, the NASA Langley Research Center. As said by the team themselves, “A commitment to excellence is ‘in our genes!’”

Although the workshop is at Menchville, the designs are tested at the STEM Gym. Located at 11516 Jefferson Ave #2 and founded by the Intentional Innovation Foundation, the Peninsula STEM Gym is 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 features a 75% FRC practice field, a complete official FIRST Tech Challenge field sponsored by Newport News Shipbuilding, and a meeting space for 20.

If you’re interested in joining or seeing the team in action, you can message the team at, swing by any of the meetings as posted on to meet the team and learn how you can get involved, and come out to STEM Day on May 21st at Christopher Newport University.

If you want to learn more, you can visit their website at