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St. Luke ready for Odyssey challenge

State Editor

Annual competition of brain power to be held at CSU on Saturday

The 24th state Odyssey of the Mind tournament will bring 112 teams of students to Columbus State University on Saturday and as many as 3,000 people to Columbus.

The only team to reach state from Columbus this year is the St. Luke School team, which competed for the first time in March. Coached by Brinkley Pound, the team's long-term project is a classics problem. They must complete the entire presentation in eight minutes, relating to literature or classics from history.

Pound said they decided to feature rock music stars traveling the world to find what they need. Their presentation includes a "Mount Rockmore," featuring the faces of Elvis Presley, James Brown, John Lennon and Mick Jagger in three-dimensional images. They will compete in Division 2 for students in grades 6-8.

The students are eighth-graders Cory Dowless, Nick Carr and Hayley Koger; seventh-graders Maxx Allen and Meryl See; and sixth-graders Elizabeth Sayers and Emily Laramy.

Three school teams also made it to state from Sumter County: Sumter Elementary, Sumter Middle and Staley Middle.

Odyssey was the brainchild of Sam Micklus, a professor at Rowan University. It provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from elementary school through college. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first competition in New Jersey. Nearly 800 teams from the U.S. and some 20 other countries could be represented in the world finals at Michigan State University in late May. Teams will vie Saturday for the right to compete in the world finals.

Teams choose one major long-term problem from a list of five types that they will focus their skills and ingenuity. They compete on teams of up to seven students each. They also are presented a short-term spontaneous problem to solve in the absence of coaches on competition day.

Competition is in four divisions: kindergarten-fifth grade; sixth-eighth grade; ninth-12th grade; and college/university. Teams can earn up to 200 points in competition from the long-term project; 100 points on the spontaneous problem; and 50 points on style.

A driving force in the success of the state Odyssey program is Jeanne Fessenden, who taught school for 40 years, retiring from the Muscogee County Schools' gifted program so she could focus efforts on Odyssey. She has served as state director for nine years and said she plans to continue at least through next year's 25th anniversary of Odyssey in Georgia and 30th anniversary overall.

The world event draws teams from such countries as China, Japan, Russia, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Germany and Hong Kong. It is always held in the U.S., but funds are raised to help some countries send teams. Odyssey partners include NASA and Microsoft Corp.

It costs $135 for one membership in Odyssey. For each membership purchased, a school may enter up to 14 teams.

Teams won the right to compete in the state tournament by winning at one of three regional tournaments in March.

Opening ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Lumpkin Center, with team presentations beginning at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Some competition will take place in Fine Arts Hall, the Davidson Center, Health-Science Department and Howard Hall, where the spontaneous competition will be closed to the public. This is the second-straight year for the state event to be at CSU.

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