Win some, lose some, still victorious:
Robotics team coached by ARL engineer scores high on teamwork during recent competition loss

April 04, 2012

Story Highlights

  • ARL FIRST robotics team participated at Virginia Regionals held March 15-17 at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center in Richmond.
  • Although they walked away without a team prize, they scored high in teamwork.
  • Triple Helix is sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, NASA, The Boeing Company, Jacobs Engineering ROME Group, Booz-Allen-Hamilton, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, JCPenney, ZelTech, Analytical Mechanics Associates, Jack and Jan Lythgoe, Eagle Technologies, and Engineered Rugged.

The FIRST Robotics Team that Matt Wilbur coaches posted blow-by-blow updates via Twitter, a popular social networking site, on their recent competition - and last minute loss - at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Virginia Regionals held March 15 - 17 at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center in Richmond.

Wilbur is an engineer in the Vehicle Technology Directorate of the Army Research Laboratory at Langley.

Although they walked away without a team prize, they scored high in teamwork, he said.

"Sticking together to identify a solution required a lot of teamwork," Wilbur said. "Finger pointing and passing the buck would have done no one on the team any good."

He said his team learned the harsh lesson that "sometimes unknown outside factors can spoil the best laid plans. This is an excellent life lesson to learn at such an early age. All of the students or the mentors on the team walked out of the arena with their heads held high, and looking forward to the opportunity for redemption at the North Carolina Regional in Raleigh, April 5 - 7."

Wilbur's daughter, Rachel, a senior who serves as team captain, was one of two students selected at the competition as a Dean's List Finalist Award winner, which landed an opportunity for one of the 10 awards to be bestowed on Dean's List students at the national championship in St. Louis in April 25 - 28. The award is given annually to students who best exemplify FIRST ideals and are effective at inspiring others to excel. The award is named after FIRST founder Dean Kamen.

Before the team left Menchville, which is about 70 miles south of Richmond, Wilbur's note to a couple dozen supporters encouraged a strong fan showing in the midst of grateful sentiments: "We very much appreciate the support of all of our sponsors, friends and fans."

The competition involved a robotic basketball tournament that tested their engineering, teamwork and alliance-building skills. The contest brought together 59 teams from Virginia, The Carolinas, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. to face off at the Siegel Center. Top performers at the Virginia Regional qualified to compete at the FIRST Championship in St. Louis.

Midday Friday, the team's Twitter posting read: "Triple helix on a roll thanks to great teammates." At 20 minutes 'til 11 Saturday morning, the team posted, "We're in our final quarter final match, wish us luck!!!!" Just 12 minutes later, "Awww 34-41, they got us at the last couple seconds."

Wilbur said the competition "did not come easy for us this year. The team fought very hard to remain near the top of the standings under some difficult circumstances. There is an old saying that you learn more from your failures than from your successes, and this holds true in this particular case.

"Though the team had worked hard to develop a robot that could accurately shoot 3-pointers using a sophisticated camera range and direction finding system, it was all crippled by scoreboards that were brightly lit at each end of the playing field. Working through these issues to isolate the problem and come up with a suitable solution kept the team on their toes. In the end, a solution to the problem was identified, but it was a little bit too late to tune things up to the point where the 3-pointers were falling consistently enough to take us to the top of the competition."

High school teams from Henrico County, Martinsville, Va. and Raleigh, N.C. emerged Saturday as top winners

Last year, Triple Helix won the 2011 Palmetto Regional Winners, 2011 Palmetto Regional Engineering Excellence Award, 2011 Virginia Regional Finalists, 2011 Virginia Regional Industrial Design Award, 2011 Virginia Regional Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, 2011 Virginia Regional FIRST Dean's List Award and was the 2011 Robot Rumble Champions.

Triple Helix is sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, NASA, The Boeing Company, Jacobs Engineering ROME Group, Booz-Allen-Hamilton, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, JCPenney, ZelTech, Analytical Mechanics Associates, Jack and Jan Lythgoe, Eagle Technologies, and Engineered Rugged.

FIRST is an international organization with the ambitious mission of transforming modern culture by celebrating science and technology and encouraging more students to be interested in pursuing education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Quick Look: check out a game animation at http://robotics.arc.nasa.gov/events/2012_frcwebcasts.php#animation

The Triple Helix entry, Genome Delta, can be viewed at www.team2363.org/mobile.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: April 4, 2012