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COOS BAY — The robotics team from Sunset Middle School won first place at state for the first time in the district’s history.

A week ago, 10-year-old Autumn Cadenhead and Olive McClusky attended the state tournament and competed against 120 other teams. These teams advanced through not only regional qualifying tournaments across Oregon, but also from Northern California and Southern Washington.

Cadenhead and McClusky took home first place in the Google Data Center Innovative Solution Award, which recognizes team solutions that are not only creative but have good potential to solve the problem researched.

“Each season there is a different theme and students have to do a research project on it,” said Adrian DeLeon, robotics coach and school board chairman for the Coos Bay School District. “This year was hydrodynamics, so they had to identify a real world problem to finding, transporting, using or disposing water for human use.”

Cadenhead and McClusky created a water purifier out of household items, intended to clean water after a natural disaster.

“We first searched online and figured out you could use a pot for it, but noticed the water would boil and would be more dangerous because if you picked up the cup in the pot, it could burn your hands,” Cadenhead said.

The purifier is mainly made from a bunt pan on top of a detachable cool whip container. In fact, because it is so cheap to make and easy to get the water out, a woman who previously worked for the UN approached the team after they won first place at the tournament.

“She works with groups in countries in Africa where they use devices like these to purify water and was interested in their project solution,” DeLeon said. “She was interested because the devices they use now, you can’t get the clean water out without dismantling it. With this solution, you can just pull the clean water out of the bottom without take it apart.”

Not only did Cadenhead and McClusky make it farther than any other team in the district, but stuck it out when their team shrank from eight to two.

“They stuck through a lot of hardship in their season,” DeLeon said.

The other students previously on the team stopped coming to practices or weren’t focused on the goal.

“It’s not just playing with Legos all the time, but research too,” said Kendall Smith, the other robotics coach for the team.

“We are very proud of them,” DeLeon said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.