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Cheyenne's Odyssey team heads to world finals

Amanda Keim, Tribune
Creativity's the name of the game at this month's Odyssey of the Mind world finals, where a group of Cheyenne Traditional School students will be representing Scottsdale for the second year in a row.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that started in 1978.

Each team must pick one of five problems to solve, which this year includes things like putting on a humorous performance of an original theory of how dinosaurs went extinct or building a balsa wood structure to hold weights. Teams also participate in a spontaneous round, where they must solve a problem on the spot.

Students compete against teams in their age division that picked the same problem. Cheyenne's group will be one of 32 Arizona teams traveling to Maryland for the world finals.

Science teacher Matthew Eppley brought Odyssey of the Mind to the Cheyenne four years ago. The program brings something different to the traditional school, which emphasizes book work and teacher direction, he said.

"It just really provides something to my students that isn't there in the classroom: To work together to solve a problem," Eppley said. "They have the ownership. They will succeed or fail based on what they do."

Cheyenne had four teams in the regional round - three went to the state competition. The team going to the world competition got second place in the state for the "Road Rally" problem and is the same group Cheyenne sent to the world competition last year.

The students had $145 to build a car powered by pulleys connected to a power drill. The car uses PVC pipes, ramps and bungee cords to push and throw balls at targets.

The students did well in last year's world competition - they got second place in their division for the spontaneous problem - and they're looking forward to going again.

"It helps you stretch your creativity in a different way than most other things," said Ashtyn Mead, 14. "It gives you a problem and it's really vague. You can solve the problem in any way."

Students also liked interacting with peers from other countries.

"You can see something different, the way different people solve (problems)," said Bobby Knowlton, 14. "So if you want to see the way China or Germany solved the problem, it will always be different."

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