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Odyssey of the Mind state finals set for Saturday

By Matt Vande BunteThe Grand Rapids Press
KENTWOOD -- Lots of cardboard. Lots of duct tape. And lots of relatives, both in blood and brains.

That's what awaits Lori Lothian at Saturday's Odyssey of the Mind state finals, the annual culmination of what she called "a family affair."

"I kind of married into it," the Lowell woman said.

Her husband, Ryan, took part in Odyssey while growing up at Greenville schools, then started a team in college. Her mother-in-law, Char Lothian, is a former coordinator of an area regional tournament.

And last year, with her oldest daughter starting kindergarten, she helped launch a new Odyssey program at Lowell's Murray Lake Elementary School. On Saturday, the school for the first time will have teams at the broader Odyssey family's statewide bash involving more than 1,000 students across Michigan.

"It really is a family affair," said Lothian, coordinator of Lowell's second-year program. "We just kind of stuck with the program until our daughter was old enough. We could be in for the long haul.

"It's just great to see these kids really think outside of the box. I think sometimes they're stifled a little bit in school. Odyssey really lets these kids be creative and explore things they've never explored before."

Three teams from Murray Lake are among the 152 squads, from elementary school through high school, that will compete at East Kentwood High School. All of the teams qualified at regional events across the state, with more than half of the teams coming from the Grand Rapids area.

They will perform skits that creatively meet criteria of five different tasks such as building a balsa wood structure and explaining how dinosaurs became extinct. The top two teams in each of three age divisions of the five categories, plus any teams that earn special Ranatra Fusca creativity honors, will advance to the world finals May 31 to June 3 at the University of Maryland.

All the effort centers on giving students an opportunity to develop teamwork and original thinking skills, said Judie Silvis, a former Odyssey coach and coordinator at Kentwood schools who is co-director of the state tournament.

The public can get their fill of Odyssey with performances scheduled from 7:40 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. A closing ceremony is expected to draw as many as 5,000 people.

Crazy creativity

Odyssey of the Mind state finals

What: More than 1,000 students from schools across Michigan will showcase problem-solving skills and wacky humor through a variety of dramatic and technical presentations.

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