Copper King CopperBots Clinch Crown: Small, young CLK team dwarfs robotics giants at state

Todd Wourio photo The Calumet CopperBots robotics team took the Michigan State Robotics Championship over the weekend, returning home with the blue banner. The team is composed of Anthony Martin(bottom), back row from left: Alex Laemmerich, John Bennetts, Jason Rogers, Tajah Davise, coach Todd Waurio, Zander Worm. Missing from the picture is Nathan Spence.

CALUMET — Calumet High School’s seven-member CopperBots Robotics Team were crowned champions at last weekend’s Michigan State Robotics Championship in Saginaw, becoming the first Upper Peninsula team to make it into the finals.

Todd Waurio, math teacher and and robotics adviser, said of 508 teams throughout the state, 160 were at the state championship last weekend.

Wourio said he and his team are still trying to accept their win.

“This is such a huge thing. We’re still kind of in shock, but we never dreamed of it,” he said. “Coming home with the blue banner that says you won the state championship is crazy.”

The state championship is a three-day event, with the first two days functioning as qualifying tournaments, each robotics team working with other teams, chosen randomly. The third day is the championship, with competitions between three-team alliances, Wourio said.

Todd Wourio photo CopperBot robot “Horatio” steels itself in the heat of the state competition.

“We’re given a challenge at the beginning of January,” Wourio said, “and it’s the challenge game, these are two-minute games, and we have six weeks to conceptualize, design, build and refine the robot that’s going to try to complete in the game. That game is really multi-faceted, and you don’t have to do everything, but you need to choose some things that you can best accomplish.”

The little team from Calumet was up against stiff competition, Wourio said, with some of the other team advisers being specialized professionals.

“There are a couple of teams that have their build center at the GM Proving Grounds, and they have engineers advising them,” said Wourio. “That’s part of the educational dynamic of the competition. It’s the end product, the well-thought-out and well-refined design that’s competing — not how good it looks.”

Choosing the right teams to compete with is crucial, because each team in the alliance can strengthen the others’ strong points.

“With the right team, we don’t have to do everything,” Wourio said. “We just play a role that supports our teams, and that’s really what does it” Wourio said. “Our little team, we have seven members, and myself — and we’re competing against teams with over 200 members and 30 advisers, and we are one of the very smallest in the competition.”

The team is composed of four freshmen and one sophomore, junior and senior, said Wouri. The four freshmen had never been on a robotics team, he said.

“It really just blew me away,” he said, “because they just really stepped up to the plate, and I’m just so proud of these students. This is the 10th year at the championship, and there are maybe 20 teams that can say they got to be state champions.”

The team now goes onto the World Championships in Detroit at the end of April, but financing is proving difficult in such a short time.

The entry fee for the state championships was $4,000, and the World Championship entry fee is $5,000, which does not include transportation, housing or food.