| The Daily Journal |
Odyssey winners storm the gates of knowledge

From staff reports

VINELAND -- Five of the nine Vineland Public Schools Odyssey of the Mind teams advanced to the April 14 state finals after Saturday's Lighthouse Regional tournament held at Ewing High School.

Two of the teams -- from Vineland High School and Landis School -- placed first in their division, according to Sheryl Rasmussen, a VHS South digital technology teacher and advisor. The state finals will be held in Somerset, NJ.

The Teams competed in five different problems:

Tag 'Em: Teams design and build their own vehicles that actually tag items for points.

The Large and Small of It: Teams must create a storybook and then make the action "come alive" with large versions in a performance.

Around the World in 8 Minutes: Teams take a trip of discovery in a performance. They must stop at a polar location, any other location on earth, and a new place created by them. NASA sponsors this problem.

Out of the Box Balsa: Teams will design a balsa wood structure that weighs no more than 15 paper clips and could hold over 1,000 pounds of weight. All of the components of this structure must fit in a small box and then be assembled during competition.

I'm Only Thinking of You: Students create a performance about a devious character that somehow tricks others, however the character is caught in the end and learns a lesson.

The Vineland High School Tag 'Em (Team A), members Karl Anderson, Elena Obelenus, Jenny Paterno, Katie Giocondo, Evan Flood, Michael Spatafore, and Ali Furman had not only a first place finish but a perfect score to earn a trip to the state finals.

The other first-place finisher was the Landis School Out of the Box Balsa team that includes Maria Francisci, Cody Carpenter, Sean Chini, Matthew McGill, Sean Slusarczyk, and Samantha Rosa.

Two teams from Vineland High School finished second and qualified for the state finals. The Vineland High School Tag 'Em (Team B), members featured Lauren Banko, Nicholas Banko, Paul Cohen, Jessica Dzindzio, Brianna Pabon, Christina Rivera, and Elye Schenk.

The Vineland High School The Large and Small of It team was comprised of Karl Anderson, Elena Obelenus, Jenny Paterno, Katie Giocondo, Evan Flood, Michael Spatafore, and Ali Furman.

Also finisnishing second was The Landis School The Large and Small of It team of McKenzie Lillia, Emily Dooley, Amanda Gillespie, Savannah Austin, Jennifer Schoenberger, Hanna Anderson, and Jeremy Jones.

Wallace School had two teams competing, one in Tag 'Em and one in Around the World in 8 Minutes and both coached by Sean McCarron. Memorial School had a team competing in Around the World in 8 Minutes, coached by Mark Melamed. Landis School had two teams, coached by Maria Vassallo, competing in Out of the Box Balsa and The Large and Small of It. Vineland High School had three teams competing. One team, coached by Mary Beth Banko, competed in Tag 'Em (Team B). Two teams are coached by Sheryl Rasmussen and they competed in Tag 'Em (Team A) and The Large and Small of It.

Since 1978, the Odyssey of the Mind program has been providing creative problem-solving opportunities for students of all ages. Through solving long-term and spontaneous problems, students learn life-long skills such as how to think critically, how to overcome obstacles, and how to rise to meet any challenge. Because their solutions to the problems are based on creativity, rather than rote learning, students learn to think divergently and are encouraged to express themselves without fear of criticism.

They work in teams to create their solutions, each member drawing on individual strengths to infuse their solutions with artistry, humor, technological skill -- or whatever it takes! Back in 1978, 28 teams from New Jersey attended the very first creative problem-solving competition. Since then, the program has touched the lives of millions of students from around the world. The Odyssey of the Mind has endured because it provides an outlet for students that is seldom found in the regular classroom.

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