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Monkeys surf to a win

Loveland Connection

The Surfing Monkeys are set to ride a wave of victory all the way to Maryland, where

The Truscott Elementary School team was one of two in their division to grab the honor, earning a spot at the international educational program's world finals.

Odyssey of the Mind teaches students to work together on a team, flex problem-solving skills and foster creativity by tackling a variety of problems, a program coach said.

"It's not about winning," said Loveland resident John Mandley, a Front Range Community College academic counselor who with his wife, Shannon Pippin-Mandley, coach the Truscott team. "It's about being proud of what you've done, regardless of what the judges say about your performance."

But it helps when the judges can be won over, which the Truscott team did with a vehicle they made that moved similar to a wheelchair.

The Road Rally problem, which makes the teams build vehicles that adhere to a set of requirements and perform given tasks, was the Truscott students' jewel.

They chopped off the legs of a wooden chair, attached bike wheels to it, and attached a plastic baseball bat on a pivot to the back.

But the creativity didn't stop there.

They also had to create a theme. The Surfing Monkeys made surfboards out of foam board, brought jungle-themed props, and purchased a sheet to paint a beach theme on.

The team consists of fourth-graders Alex Swanty, Jennifer Goddard, Helena Bittner, Henry Buckley, Daniel Pippin-Mandley and second-grader Harrison Bittner.

In addition to the long-term vehicle project, student teams also are given on-the-spot problems that they have to work on together.

Now, the team has to raise the several thousand dollars it will cost to take all six members to Maryland.

Mandley said they will meet with parents and discuss fundraising possibilities.

"(Odyssey of the Mind) really challenges kids to be problem solvers," Mandley said. "It really gives kids an opportunity to create something on their own, to create something they can be proud of. It compels them to work together as a team." they will compete in the Odyssey of the Mind world championships in June after being named state champions this weekend.

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