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Let the creative games begin -- regional competition of Odyssey of the Mind kicks off season

by Matt Vande Bunte | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday March 08, 2009, 8:00 AM

ADA TOWNSHIP -- The scholastic season of creativity competitions has begun. Saturday at Forest Hills Central High School, 70 teams from Caledonia, Forest Hills and Rockford took part in Odyssey of the Mind.

It was the first of three regional OotM tournaments involving area teams this year. The top performers advance to state and world finals of the annual problem-solving fest that features humorous skits with silly costumes and bizarre, low-budget props.

Also this month are local qualifiers for Science Olympiad, Michigan History Day Competition and FIRST Robotics. All events are free and open to spectators.

After playing a mad scientist in a quirky skit watched by more than 100 spectators, Harrison Witt came off the stage with a rush of adrenaline.

"That was so much fun," the 11-year-old gushed to his teammates from Rockford's Parkside Elementary School. "When you work together, you can come up with anything. You clump your ideas into one big thing."

Some snapshots from Saturday's OotM competition:

-- A Forest Hills Northern Trails team sat in a hallway and prepared for their show by playing what 10-year-old Haley Fisk called "brain tweezers." While munching bananas (coach Lisa Brown called it "brain food"), they took turns listing stores and restaurants in alphabetic order:

"Banana Republic," Brown said. "Craig's Cruisers," Haley followed. Then on and on -- "Olive Garden, Panera Bread, Qdoba" -- until it was time to perform.

-- A balsa wood structure built by a team from Collins Elementary School in Forest Hills withstood 150 pounds of weight before it cracked. The students tested several versions during practice, having teammate Noah Spungen stand on top to supply the weight. "We knew it would hold at least 50," said Cameron Larson, 10.

-- After playing Elvis in a skit with pigs, pumpkins, a farmer and a ghost, Caleb Waldvogel rattled off the homemade accessories of his getup: Beads sewed onto turquoise pants, sideburns glued to his face, music records on his rear and chest hair squiggled in marker. "Making the costume was the best part," said Caleb, 9, from Rockford's Valley View Elementary School.

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