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Odyssey of the Mind: Thinking contest tests students

More than 200 students on 37 teams from all over the state competed Saturday at Belleville West High School for a chance to head to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.

As a result of their winnings Saturday, 22 teams will head to the World Finals in Ames, Iowa, in May. They needed to place first or second in their division at Saturday's state tournament to qualify for the World Finals, where people from all over the world compete each year.

Odyssey of the Mind is a program for kindergarten through college students that provides them with tools to be creative thinkers in problem solving.

Students gave eight-minute prepared presentations using their engineering and performance skills in problem solving.

A group of mostly juniors from Belleville West High School won the Renata Rusca award, which Illinois Odyssey of the Mind co-director Amber Thurnau called the "coveted award of the program." She said it's given to a group that demonstrates extreme risk-taking in their presentation.

That Belleville West group, which has competed together since the juniors were in fourth-grade and will advance to the World Finals this year, was charged with building a structure out of balsa wood and glue that would support as much weight as possible while absorbing shockwaves. The group made the wood structure into a pyramid to support the weight, and built a crane to lift the weights. Most teams relied on a vertical wood structure.

Another Belleville West High School group, which has competed together for the last six years, had to incorporate old and new superstitions into a performance. They used "The Price Is Right" as a backdrop. That group placed second in their division and in May will head to the World Finals, which they have previously competed in.

On why the team continues to compete year after year, 16-year-old Lauren Ruser said, "World is so much fun."

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