From humble beginnings, you can achieve great things: CMHS robotics team proved that this year

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WAUKESHA -- They started as a group of students with no real background in the competition they would soon enter, but by the end, their results were something to marvel at. A team from Catholic Memorial High School found success through a competitive and collaborative effort.

"We really started absolutely from scratch," John Burke, CMHS robotics coach said.

The road to success began in an empty room in the "Innovative Wing" at Catholic Memorial.

Catholic Memorial High School

Catholic Memorial High School

"The equipment we had was basically limited to a screw driver," Mo Burke, CMHS senior said.

"Coming in, pretty much no one at the school knew what we were getting into," Ryan Knuese, CMHS senior said.

John Burke

John Burke

"We had a motto with our team -- 'we'll start with humble beginnings and achieve great things,'" Coach Burke said.

The first task in September was to build a robot without knowing exactly what its purpose would be.

"For months we're meeting and talking about things abstractly,what we're going to do when we receive the challenge and how we're going to pursue it and how we're going to be organized," Coach Burke said.

As the work intensified, so did the emotional connection between the teammates and with their creation.

Ryan Knuese

Ryan Knuese

"We even named it after, since our head coach is an English teacher, we've named the robot Raskolnikov which is the main character in his favorite book 'Crime and Punishment,'" Ryan Knuese said.

"They start to have a relationship with the robot -- like a great soccer player would have with the ball and they want to see it do more. What can they do? What can they add? How can they revise their thinking on this robot to get it to do things they didn't think it could do? And they get as much satisfaction out of getting the robot to perform a task as a great soccer player does getting a ball to swerve just the way they want it," Coach Burke said.

In January, the organization "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" or FIRST, which organizes robotics competitions, gave the team its next task.

FIRST Robotics

"Everyone gets the game release of how the game's going to work and what the objectives are. And after that, your team, you get your parts and you have six weeks to work on, build and test your robot," Knuese said.

"It was a bit daunting. You see the task at hand and you watch some of the robots from past years and you think 'can we do this with what we have?'" Burke said.

As it turned out, they could.

Mo Burke

Mo Burke

Burke and Knuese helped lead their team into the regional championships in Milwaukee.

"I will never forget what it was like for our team to be called for the award of Rookie All Star at the Panther Arena because it was electric. It was just something the kids worked so hard for and deserved," Coach Burke said.

The team was qualified for the 2016 FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis -- with teams from around the world.

"We have taken a team that has come from nothing to a team that's going to the world championships and I hope that's something that will really inspire students to want to get involved," Mo Burke said.

FIRST Robotics

Knuese's younger brother Cole, who is a freshman on the team, is already thinking about this team's influence on future teams.

"We want to end up being one of the best robotics schools in the country. That's our long term goal -- so it's important that these next couple years we keep up this mentality that we're going to do one thing well and we're going to achieve our goals," Cole Knuese said.

FIRST Robotics

"This is definitely the craziest, yet most fulfilling thing I've done. I'm just really -- I was feeling really sad that this is my only year to do this. But the fact that we are doing pretty much the best that we possibly can, it just feels really good to, you know, I got one shot at this. I made the most of it and we really did something with this," Ryan Knuese said.

The CMHS team was one of four Wisconsin teams to reach the championships in St. Louis.

FIRST Robotics

CLICK HERE to learn more about the FIRST Robotics organization.

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