The enthusiasm of Paul Copioli is the driving force behind Team 217, the ThunderChickens. The first noticeable thing about him is his perpetual excitement about anything tied to robotics. Fervor constantly surrounds him both at work and at play. This passion is found within everything he does, whether he's helping students to design new parts or pumping up the team at competitions.
When it came to helping out with FIRST robotics, Paul didn’t stray far from home. He graduated from Henry Ford II High School, one of the schools in the ThunderChicken community. He came to the team in 2000, only the team's second year of existence, and has left a remarkable impact since.
A well-known figure on both the playing field and online, particularly at sites such as the prestigious Chief Delphi forums, Paul is an important FIRST component. The ThunderChickens greatly appreciate the excitement and creativity that stems from his energetic ideas. Paul is well known on the forums for helping out anyone that needs it and going out of his way to find information to assist teams in need. His supportive attitude and willingness to aid have led to the name “Paul Copioli” becoming well known throughout all facets of the FIRST arena.
Andy Baker, a previous Woody Flowers Award winner for Team 45, the TechnoKats, says, “Paul is a great asset to FIRST. His passion is contagious and he brings excitement and emotion to the competition. His leadership on the ThunderChickens is a model for us all to follow.” Jason Morrella, a FIRST Regional Director, describes him as "an intelligent guy with lots of great ideas, and firsthand experience and insight regarding many issues in FIRST.”
Another area where Paul’s skills are greatly appreciated is in the complexities of robot design and construction. Every year, Paul gives a presentation at the local Kickoff events to explain the basics of motor operation and usage to students and mentors from all FIRST teams. The ThunderChicken website hosts this much renowned presentation as well. His experiences at Fanuc Robotics, where Paul works, give him the knowledge to ease the stressing process over six weeks of build period. Additionally, Mr. Copioli convinced his company to graciously allow the ThunderChickens to design parts for each year's robot at the headquarters in Rochester Hills. He has helped the team create a truly unique conception, The Crazy Chicken Transmission, which has a provisional patent that will later this year become a US patent. Although a student creation, this accomplishment would not have been possible without Paul's assistance and helpful guidance. On the field at competitions, Paul is skilled at bringing teams together. His unique personality helps unite the ThunderChickens with their alliance partners to become a true team of teams.
It was no surprise to anyone when Paul was elected a FIRST unsung Hero on the Chief Delphi forums last year. “Paul Copioli has been selected as the third Unsung FIRST Hero because of his unwavering passion and energy for FIRST and his dedication to his team,” his online nominator stated. Another reason behind his nomination was Paul's palpable delight in watching students mature and improve in the robotics' field. “Paul inspires the students to become leaders,” says Dan Swando, a college mentor on team 217. “He shows how to lead the team by his example, and students pick up on that, and want to be the kind of leader he is.”
Copioli loves partaking in FIRST to such an extent that he seeks out opportunities to volunteer any way he can. He has been the Master of Ceremonies at the Indiana Robotics Invitational; Ford's Sweet Repeat; and the recent Lego League regional, ThunderQuest, which was run by the ThunderChickens. This year, he will be announcing at the Great Lakes Regional—the largest FIRST event of its kind—and will be the Master of Ceremonies at the Detroit Regional in March. Furthermore Paul had pushed the envelope and set up a social gathering for the FIRST community - an upcoming tailgate party at the Midwest Regional, which has encouraged multiple other such regional parties across the nation. All in all, without Paul the ThunderChickens, and FIRST in general, would be lacking a tremendous asset.