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AG students to compete in problem-solving competition

By Rebekah Sungala, Herald-Standard

Six students from Albert Gallatin Area Senior High School will compete at the state level in the Odyssey of the Mind challenge April 14 at Altoona Area High School.

Seniors Nathan Gruden, Kathleen Harmon, Kelley McCahill and Leann Rerko will participate in the creative problem-solving competition, as will juniors Alex Goodwin and Andy Harmon.

Odyssey of the Mind, according to Albert Gallatin High School teacher Mary Ann Hughes, is a friendly competition that requires students to solve long-term and spontaneous problems.

Hughes, a math and computer sciences teacher, said Odyssey of the Mind teaches students lifelong skills, such as critical thinking.

The competition requires students to overcome obstacles and meet challenges, according to Hughes, who has "coached" many students throughout the years, providing guidance as they attempt to solve problems to which there seems to be no easy solution.

The technical problem Hughes' students were asked to expand upon this year is titled "The Large and Small of It" and focuses on a storybook that incorporates visual special effects. Students were required to create three large-scale pages and three small pages, all with the same theme.

Previous technical problems have included robot building and sound production.

Hughes' students chose to solve the problem by making the large pages, which serve as stage sets, and the small pages change appearance throughout the eight-minute presentation.

During the performance, Hughes said a character, portrayed by Rerko, also will appear to change size, the effect created by technical means.

The Albert Gallatin Odyssey of the Mind team is, according to Hughes, the only team from Fayette County to make the state finals.

The students earned the right to compete in the state finals by placing first in their division during the regional competition held March 3 at Moon Township High School.

Hughes said the same team competed in the state finals last year and placed seventh out of 14 teams.

Her students said they are confident they'll do better this year.

"We're winning states," Goodwin said.

More than 1,000 students are expected to participate in the state competition in Altoona. The first- and second-place teams in each division will qualify for the World Finals, which will be held May 23 through 26 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

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