| The Enquirer |
Students head to World Finals

UNION - Gray Middle School's Odyssey of the Mind team decided to tackle two problems at this year's state competition to double the chances for a win.

The gamble paid off.

The group landed a first- and second-place finish at the 2008 Odyssey of the Mind State Championships on April 19.

The six-member team wrote one skit that solved two problems - one dealing with the extinction of dinosaurs and another that required students to solve biosphere problems using three eccentric characters.

The wins qualified the team for Odyssey's World Finals competition, May 1 through June 3 at the University of Maryland.

The group will compete in both problem categories.

"We qualified for both so that's a pretty big feat," said seventh-grader Sam Lutes, who has been involved with the program for four years. "We just wanted to double our chances.

"We're excited to see how we do at World Finals."

Coach Mary Schmalzl said the team's hard work paid off at the competition this year.

"This group has also been together for a long time and most of them competed together in elementary school ... they know each other's strengths," she said.

Schmalzl's daughter, Ellie, a member of the team, said the group had extra incentive to do well this year because the majority of the group's members will move on next year.

A few members are headed for high school, she said, and one member is moving to Tennessee after the World Finals.

"We've had fun performing together ... and we wanted to do well this year," Ellie said.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program designed to provide creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Teams think outside the box to compete and solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

Teams throughout the Commonwealth competed at the state competition and qualified for the World Finals, including 12 teams from the following Northern Kentucky schools and programs: Gray, Beechwood School, Fort Thomas Schools Gifted and Talented program, Ryle High School, Turkey Foot Middle School, New Haven Elementary, Piner Elementary and Simon Kenton High School.

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