CALUMET - The CopperDog 150 already has one of the most technically advanced websites in sled dog racing - copperdog150.com - but this year event organizers are working closely with Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University students to take efforts to an even higher level.
Two teams of Tech business students are working on creating an automated live statistics system and producing CopperDog human interest stories via video; while Finlandia design students are crafting digital and print deliverables to refine and enhance the CopperDog brand.
"Although CopperDog is doing all of these great things, we are coming up short in providing statistics, up-to-the-minute standings, and video coverage presented periodically throughout race weekend," said CopperDog Executive/Race Director Todd Brassard, who connected with Tech Lecturer of Entrepreneurship Michele Loughead and her team dynamics/decision making class.
"I was absolutely ecstatic when Michele notified me that several of her problem solving teams had chose CopperDog as their client," Brassard added. "The timing was perfect because we have a few very challenging problems to solve. I have been very impressed with how quickly the students engaged in problem solving."
CopperDog already closesly tracks the progress of the 45 sled dog teams through a radio network of HAM operators and firefighters, and as teams move through crossings, their time is radioed into headquarters and logged into a database. The info is then spread to Facebook, Twitter and the website, which, along with an interactive map, allow people to follow the race remotely.
Now, Tech Computer Networks and Systems Administration undergraduate student Ben Christensen is leading a team of five students to improve the live statistics system even more.
"We're at work collecting opinions and data to decide what sort of statistics we want to report. We're also working on developing formulas and other means to collect the data. My role is to translate that information into an automatic system that will calculate and display the information on the fly," said Christensen, who is the group's primary programmer/developer, based on experience as the primary developer for Michigan Tech Broomball's website.
"I've never done live stats before, though, so this is an exciting new challenge to tackle," he said.
During just four weeks the project will go from concept to deliverable project, "no small feat for a group that barely knew each other before the start of the project," Christensen said.
Nikoli Wiens, who is leading a second five-person team from Loughead's class, is faced with a similar challenge of branching out into new territory and completing a project on a short time frame.
"It's uncharted waters for most of us, but we are definitely learning a lot about ourselves and what we are capable of in the process," he said. "This is something that we are really excited to work on because we know it would add a lot of accessibility to the race and provide ways for friends and fans to be involved in the race even if they can't make it on race day."
Various team members have experience in video production, tweeting live updates and broadcasting sports events. Those backgrounds will all come together to produce human interest video stories about mushers, volunteers, race planners, etc.
"Both of their projects are ambitious, may completely fail, but if they succeed, will blow people's socks off," Brassard said.
Over at Finlandia, Audrey Small, who will be graduating this April with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design, is helping CopperDog bring young, fresh and edgy design input to the event. She got involved through an internship with Brassard Media, which is owned and operated by Todd and Jessica Brassard, and they all agreed CopperDog would be a good area of focus.
Now the partnership has opened doors for a possible long-term connection with Finlandia design students through discussions with Finlandia University International School of Art and Design Associate Professor of Graphic Design Robert Grame.
"We have received a lot of great support from Finlandia University over the years, but this is the first year that we are tapping one of of their strongest assets, the faculty and students of their design department," Todd Brassard said. "Although we are just getting this relationship of the ground, I know that Finlandia design students can play a huge part in developing the CopperDog brand and keeping our look and appeal fresh."
So far Small has created a poster and postcard/flyer for the CopperDog 150, pieces that will be key to her designer portfolio and to the race's marketing efforts.
"My role thus far has consisted of poster design; it doesn't sound like much, but paper flyers and other such advertisements go a long way," Small said. "I'm learning to understand branding and how to stay true to a brand while adding a fresh twist. ... Everyone with the CopperDog is so enthusiastic and passionate for what they do, it's simply amazing."
For more information on the CopperDog 150, visit copperdog150.com, and check back to The Daily Mining Gazette every Saturday leading up to the race for more exclusive CopperDog 150 coverage.