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Haywood students advance in Odyssey competition

published March 9, 2009 4:45 pm
WAYNESVILLE -- Junaluska Elementary and Waynesville Middle schools won top honors at the North Carolina western regional Odyssey of the Mind competition held Saturday at T.C. Roberson High School, qualifying both schools for the state tournament next month at Wingate University. Canton Middle School also participated in the competition.

Junaluska placed second in the Division I Earth Trek problem-solving competition behind first-place winner Fairview Elementary School. Other elementary schools competing in that problem's division were The Evergreen Community Charter School and Charles C. Bell Elementary School. The top two winners in each of the five problems' divisions qualified for state.

Members of the Junaluska team are Samantha Bernardi, Sam Cox, Connie Feinberg, Tanner Fox, Mason McConnell, Michael Parrot and Brooks Wilson, all fourth grade students. The team was coached by Melanie Threlkeld McConnell, with assistance from Suzy Bernardi.

The Earth Trek problem required students to design and build a "vehicle" that would travel through four environments using a propulsion system other than human power. The vehicle had to undergo one change at each stop to reflect the environment it was in. At some point in the vehicle's journey, it had to appear to be a group of vehicles traveling simultaneously. The students chose to create a vehicle out of a 2-liter plastic soda bottle and a propulsion system out of a zip line and an electric fan. The fan pushed the vehicle along the zip line to each of its four environments. The students wrote the script and painted their own sets to present their problem-solving technique. The students worked many hours after school and on snow days to complete their problem.

Waynesville Middle School won first place in the Division II Superstition problem-solving competition, ahead of second-place winner Andrews Middle School. Other schools participating in the Superstition competition were The Mountain Community School, Hayesville Middle School, The New Classical Academy, Asheville Homeschool Coop and Carolina Christian School.

Members of the Waynesville Middle School team are Allie Dinwiddie, Maggie Rogers and Chloe Zacher, seventh graders, and Mitchell Griffin, Elizabeth Haynes, Kayleigh McAlister and Emily Tetreault, eighth graders. The team was coached by Vienna Lopresti, a Waynesville Middle School language arts teacher, with assistance from Steve Harrison, an art teacher at Bethel Middle School. Lopresti has coached five OotM teams and taken three to the World tournament. Lopresti said her team practiced about 16 hours a week to prepare for the competition.

The Superstition problem required students to present a play built around two known superstitions and one of their own creation. Their two known superstitions were: how to use a splinter to cure a toothache and how to use a notched stick to get rid of warts, both well-known Appalachian superstitions. The students own superstition was how to use a tree branch to relieve a headache. The students had to make their costumes and sets and write their own scripts.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Kids apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and world level. Thousands of teams from throughout the United States and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.

More information on Odyssey of the Mind can be found at www.odysseyofthemind.com.

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