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Odyssey at ECU is a test of mind

By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector
Friday, April 04, 2008

Students, parents and educators from throughout the state will converge on the East Carolina University campus on Saturday to solve mind-boggling problems and prepare youngsters for future leadership roles, their adult leaders said.

The North Carolina Odyssey of the Mind Tournament will be an all-day competition beginning at 8 a.m. at various sites on the ECU campus and finishing at 4 p.m., followed by a grand awards ceremony at 5 p.m. at Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

Teams of students from K-12 will be challenged to find creative and imaginative solutions to a series of pre-selected problems, said Betsy Adams, regional director of the Coastal Division and co-director of the tournament.

"Odyssey of the Mind is such a unique program. The problems they solve, the skits they perform and all the props and costumes they use come from the students themselves," Adams said.

Student competitors may receive no direct help or ideas from adults, only stimulating questions and enthusiastic support, Adams said.

"It's a complete process, and if you participate in the process, you're a winner," she said.

Nevertheless, there will be competitive awards for solving problems in five distinct categories that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretations of literature, according to Carolyn Braly, the program's state director.

Students who become members of the Odyssey of the Mind organization form teams in their schools and begin to solve problems provided by the organization from its headquarters in New Jersey, Braly said.

They can enter regional competitions within each state and can advance, if successful, to world competition later in the year, Braly said.

In addition to the competitive events, there will be a special guest presentation from ECU alumnus David D. Herring, who now serves as Project Manager for Education and Public Outreach within the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Herring will bring his "E-Theater 2008" series to the Hendrix Theater in the Mendenhall Student Union on the ECU campus. Attendees will be able to "fly" from outer space to Greenville or any other location on the planet using data from NASA technology.

Shows will be at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., said Andrew Schmidt, chief marketing executive with the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Schmidt was excited about the opportunity the tournament offers for Greenville to show itself to the estimated 1,700 residents from elsewhere in North Carolina, many of whom will see it for the first time, he said.

"Everybody who participates in the Odyssey of the Mind weekend has a winning stake in it. We look forward to showing people what Greenville is all about, with its size and all the amenities we offer here," Schmidt said.

He believes that ECU will meet some of its future students at the tournament, who will, in turn, have an extra opportunity to get a look at the campus. The weekend is expected to generate $1 million for the local economy, Schmidt estimated.

"We look forward to having tomorrow's leaders with us for a weekend of terrific events and competition," Schmidt said.

The Odyssey of the Mind Tournament is sponsored by East Carolina University and RBC Centura Bank.

To learn more about the Odyssey of the Mind Tournament, visit www.ncom.org or contact Carolyn Braly at 249-7256.


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