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Creativity bubbles at Odyssey finals

by Matt Vande Bunte | The Grand Rapids Press
KENTWOOD -- The task: Build a small vehicle that changes appearance at four different locations. That's it.

The huge can of shaving cream, a life-size yearbook page and live keyboard performance all were part of a North Rockford Middle School team's interpretation. Oh, and the group's humorous skit also featured a boy dressed in drag and a tragic ending with a sobering lesson about bullying.

Mission accomplished for Dylan and his Earth Trek teammates.

Ditto for 145 other teams that competed Saturday at East Kentwood High School in several unique, open-ended events as part of the Odyssey of the Mind state finals. The top teams qualified for next month's world finals at Iowa State University.

As usual, after months of team brainstorming, the problem-solving fest full of kids wearing goofy costumes and using strange props was anything but normal. Snapshots from Saturday:

-- A Greenville Middle School team explained the origin of the Olympics in a skit about Greek mythology. Megan Ayres, 11, played the good half of Heracles' conscience and also growled around stage as part of Cerberus, a multi-headed dog guarding the underworld.

"I didn't even know I could hit that note," Megan said later. "It was really low."

-- A team from Knapp Forest Elementary School in Forest Hills wiggled and giggled in the staging area of the "Shock Waves" event. "Shake it out," said Joan Roberts, a volunteer from Ada Township.

Said the longtime OotM volunteer, shortly after giving each team member a lucky penny: "The kids are usually pretty nervous. There's just a lot of excitement and tension. This is kind of where you get them in the mood to do it."

-- About 40 minutes before performing, students from Thornapple Kellogg Middle School laid on their bellies in the hallway watching the movie "Wall-E" on a portable DVD player. Nearby sprawled "Bob the Body," a skeleton that was one of their props.

"We're trying to kind of ease the butterflies in our stomach," said Lili Grusnis, 12.

-- Wearing a crown of olive leaves, volunteer Philip Smith introduced teams at the "Lost Labor of Heracles" event with tongue-in-cheek style.

"You do not want one of the gods to strike you with a lightning bolt," the Brighton man told the crowd, asking them to turn off cell phones and beepers.

Then, part of an OotM routine, he asked if everybody was ready. The judges' response, in unison: "Heracles, Hercules, it's all Greek to us." Said one team: "Oh my Greek god, I think we are."

-- "Hydra crossing!" yelled a team from Tri-County Middle School in Howard City while moving a monster across a hallway lined with props of cardboard, papier mache and duct tape.

Other sights: A boy clad in tinfoil, a woman promoting raffle tickets with a sign on her head and minivan windows painted with team spirit.


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