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Two St. Lucie student teams headed to state Odyssey of Mind competition

By Lisa Bolivar
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Two St. Lucie student teams will be taking an Odyssey of the Mind when they head to state competition in April, thanks to placing first in the regional competition Feb. 26.

The two teams, both from Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, won first place in their division during the regional tournament held at Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach. They had competition from much larger counties such as Palm Beach, Miami Dade and Broward.

Odyssey of the Mind is an educational program that reaches youngsters worldwide and rewards them for developing mental dexterity skills.

"Any time you can stretch the creative thinking opportunity for kids, you are doing them a real service," said Superintendent of Schools Michael Lannon. "With OM you teach them how to compete with their brain.

"We can teach them to play sports, but the 'muscle' you compete with the rest of your life is the brain," he said.

Students with teams up to seven members compete in problem solving, said Jennifer Manikas, volunteer regional director for the Palm region of the competition.

Manikas explains that students address five different kinds of problems. One builds vehicles, one builds contraptions, two involve script writing that is dramatic or humorous and one involves building balsa wood structures that will hold a given amount of weight.

Judi Hueter is the coach for two of this year's three Lincoln Park teams. She said the experience students gain from the Odyssey competition is priceless.

"It develops their ability to work cooperatively and to think creatively and to solve problems," Hueter said.

Why volunteer time to develop student teams?

"Because I believe very strongly that what this teaches these kids is what is preparing them for the future, not just theirs but ours as a country," Hueter said. "We need people to be able to think clearly and problem solve for all these really big problems we've been creating for ourselves (as a country)."

Students then have eight minutes to present their solutions to judges, she said.

From the state competition winners will advance to the international tournament held at the University of Maryland.


HOW THEY DID

Several schools competed in the 2011 Odyssey of the Mind Regional competition from St. Lucie County. Two are ranked in first place and are headed to state competition in April.

In the number one slot are two teams from Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce.

Also placing well are teams from: Bayshore Elementary, Fairlawn Elementary, Mariposa Elementary, Morningside Elementary, Northport K-8 School, Oak Hammock K-8 School, Parkway Elementary, Southport Middle School, Village Green Elementary, West Gate K-8 School and Windmill Point Elementary School.


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