| The Reporter-Herald |
Students vie to advance to Odyssey of the Mind state competition

By Sarah Bultema
Loveland Reporter-Herald

With explorers driving to the center of the earth, penguins learning how to bowl and candy makers inventing healthy sweets, Berthoud High School became as wild as a child's imagination Saturday, thanks to the Odyssey of the Mind competition.

The annual problem-solving challenge brought together about 500 kindergarten- to high-school-aged children from around the region to present the projects they've been working on all year.

Teams used their creativity to solve an out-of-the-box challenge, which they presented Saturday to a panel of judges.

This year's projects included designing a vehicle that could visit and change through various terrain, building a balsa wood structure that could hold weight and absorb shock waves, and writing and performing a play about a candy factory that uses healthy ingredients in its snacks.

And all were created with the youngsters' own style and flair.

"They're more creative than any parents can be," said Jill Leichliter, whose son, 8-year-old Connor, competed with his Garfield Elementary School team at the event.

"It's amazing they can come up with all this on their own," she said.

One third-grade team from Garfield Elementary worked together in the "Teach Yer Creature" competition, in which they had to create a mechanical animal that acts like a mammal or bird and learns lessons.

Through a skit they wrote and performed themselves, the children taught a variety of tricks to their chicken -- made out of multicolored feathers, Slinkys and odds and ends.

One trick the chicken "learned" was dancing. After showing it how to dance through the story line, the youngsters used marionette-style strings attached to the fingers of a pair of gloves to make their prop actually boogie.

"We thought it was funny," said 8-year-old Isabelle Johnson, who was part of the team.

Each team in the competition was scored based on its long-term project and style, as well as an on-the-spot challenge.

In the end, the top two teams from each division will move on to the April 18 state competition, and then possibly the world finals.

Whether they win or not, the Garfield team members said they learned a lot from the competition.

"There's not one most important person," Isabelle said. "They're all important."

And the team couldn't wait to do Odyssey of the Mind again next year.

"It's fun, and it helps your brain," said 9-year-old Connor Frey. "It helps it think a lot."

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