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3 Spartanburg Odyssey of the Mind teams earn chance to compete in world finals

By LEE G. HEALY lee.healy@shj.com Published: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:15 a.m.
Three local Odyssey of the Mind teams have the chance to compete in the world finals in May after wowing judges at the state level last weekend.

Teams from Fairforest Middle and Fairforest Elementary in Spartanburg School District 6 and Chapman Elementary in District 7 were invited to compete with teams from around the world at Iowa State University at the end of May. Last year, nearly 850 teams from around the globe competed.

The three local teams took either first or second place in their division in the state finals last Saturday.

Odyssey of the Mind promotes creative problem-solving among students from kindergarten through college. Teams, which are separated into divisions by grade, choose a problem to solve and, with a coach's guidance, work on the problem throughout the year. Problems may be technical in nature, artistic or theatrical. The teams present their solution at the state or world finals and must creatively solve an on-the-spot problem.

All year, the Chapman Elementary Odyssey team, coached by Crystal Weathers, has been working on a balsa wood and glue structure designed to hold as much weight as possible while absorbing shock waves. The team's structure held 195 pounds, garnering the students second place in their division on the "Shock Waves" problem.

It was the second year the team made it to the world finals. Weathers said students were more comfortable with the competition this year.

"It's a way to get them out of their shell," Weathers said. "It's just about doing your best."

In the two months until the world competition, the team will fine-tune their projects and raise funds. The school agreed to pay for lodging, but students will have to raise money for transportation.

This is also the second year Fairforest Elementary's team has qualified for the world finals. Team Coach Stephanie Wofford said she hopes her seven-student team is able to attend, as it is an expensive trip.

The FES team solved the problem dubbed "Superstition." Students had to act out a performance that included two documented superstitions, and come up with a new superstition on their own. The skit had to include a funny narrator, costumes and a set.

"Some of the stuff they come up with, it just wows me," Wofford said. "It's a very strong team I have this year. I'm very proud of them."

Fairforest Middle's Odyssey team took first place in its division for the "Teach Yer Creature" problem. The six-member team had to act out a humorous skit about a mechanical creature that acts like a real animal.

"I was impressed," said Coach Bernard Frost. "They did a wonderful job. I was so proud of them for putting it together."

While Frost wasn't sure if the team will be able to make it to the world finals, he said students will still work on perfecting the performance.

"Odyssey is a way for some students to really think outside the box," Frost said. "It's for students who may, in the normal classroom, feel they might not fit in. Odyssey gives them that freedom to be creative, and when they do that, they have all the confidence in the world to do other things."



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