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DV scores at Odyssey of the Mind regionals

By Kathryn Braisted
POCONO SUMMIT -- Nine Delaware Valley teams earned their way to statewide competition at the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition last Saturday.

A day of creative problem-solving by students strutting their intellectual stuff, the 2009 Northeast Pennsylvania Odyssey of the Mind regional tournament at Pocono Mt. West High School brought together 11 counties, 28 schools and over 550 students to compete for a place in the state tournament. With the exception of Dingman Delaware Primary School, every district school was represented. When all was said and solved, nine district teams qualified for those places.

At the end of the afternoon, points were tallied based on long-term problems, spontaneous answers, and overall team style. First place medals were awarded to: DVES Division I Vehicle team, SES Division II Drama team, DDMS Division II Classics team, DVHS Division III Technical team, DVHS Division III Classics team, and DVHS Division III Structure team. Second place medals were awarded to: DVMS Division II Vehicle team, DVHS Division III Vehicle team, and DDES Division I Technical team.

The problems competition

This year, vehicle teams were given an "Earth Trek" problem, in which students build a small vehicle to visit four locations. Each time the vehicle leaves a location, it needs to look different, and after leaving any one location, must appear to be a group of vehicles moving together. At the same time, group members must perform a skit that incorporates the location visits, the locations' environments, and the vehicle's appearance chances.

After receiving a problem titled "The Lost Labor of Heracles," classics teams had to put on a performance about the ancient Greek hero Heracles, who was ordered by King Eurytheus to perform 12 labors. The team must reenact Heracles performing one of those labors, as well as a "lost in history" labor, which is created by the team. In addition, the performance should include a god or goddess from Greek Mythology, an original mythological creature that plays a role in the "lost" labor, and the team's version of why the labor was lost through the ages.

DVHS classics team member Tyler McCarthy has been involved in Odyssey for two years, and has several reasons for his continued involvement in the program.

"You get to use your mind and be creative, you get to build things you never thought you could, and you get to make friends outside ones you already have," the high school senior said. "It's just a really cool experience."

For the technical teams, "Teach Yer Creature" was the theme. Participants must create a performance about a mechanical creature that acts like a real mammal or bird and learns lessons. The creature must be taught two lessons by a "creature teacher," as well as learn and demonstrate a behavior by observing others.

The fourth problem, "Shock Waves," was given to the structure teams. Teams had to build the strongest structure possible out of balsa wood and glue, testing the creation's durability by placing weights on top of it. To incorporate the shock wave component, the weight placers must, at intervals, place one or two spacers on the top weight, and then add another weight. The spacers are removed, causing the new weight to fall onto the weights below, creating a shock wave. At the same time, other team members stage an original skit. The DVHS structure team, whose structure held 715 pounds, acted as a family on an airplane experiencing turbulence.

The theatrical teams' problem "Superstition" dictated that a performance be created that documents two actual superstitions, one created by the team, and the events that caused the original superstition to come to be. The play also must include a funny narrator, a costume worn by at least two team members at the same time, and a stage set.

To see complete competition results, visit http://www.nepaootm.com/

How OotM works

Teams of up to seven students compete in five different problems: vehicle, technical, classics, structure, and theatrical. Each team receives its problem in early October, and since then has built, taped, glued, painted, tested and broken props and mechanisms to prepare the best solution to the problem. The tasks include a skit or performance that is related to the team's problem. Outside construction assistance from parents or adults is prohibited, and a spending limit is imposed on teams. Besides the assigned problem, Odyssey of the Mind competitors were also subjected to a private "spontaneous" problem, which involved quick and logical thinking. Teams do not have any prior knowledge about the spontaneous question, and must present a solution on the spot. Students from K-12 participated in the regional tournament, competing according to their team's division, which is normally characterized by grade level.

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