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Creating an Odyssey

By Jonathan Copsey
"Aftershock is ready to rock!"

That call was given by the students of a Queen of Angels' team who came first in the regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament two weeks ago.

The "Shockwave" team, made of fourth and fifth graders, made a balsa wood tower that weighed 18 grams (little more than a pencil) and was able to hold 780 pounds of weight. Along with this construction, they had to create a play that incorporated adding the weights; so they made an eight minute play about a robot who commanded the children to add more and more weight to the balsa tower. They also had the King of Sweden (who was doubled as a thug) trying to get the robot to make him Synthetic Fat SticksTM (aka French Fries). It was all very silly.

The children of the group had to write the play, build the balsa wood tower, make the costumes, etc without any help from parents and had to use recycled material. The robot. For instance, was made from a cardboard box, Target bags and a bucket that held cheese.

Odyssey of the Mind is an educational program begun in 1978 that challenges students to think in creative ways to solve problems. The teams apply their creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. Thousands of teams from the U.S. and from 25 other countries participated in the program.

Creativity is the focus of Odyssey of the Mind, used in a competitive format. Children are awarded points on just what they can do with the materials and problems given. The Earth Trek team had to build a car that would go through all the elements. Their model car could be added to depending on what element it was in. When it went through a volcano, a tin shield was added to protect it from the heat; skis were added to it in the arctic. The "Super Mission Superstition" team had to make a play out of two real superstitions and add in one of their own creation, while having to use props for two different purposes.

"It's a creative thinking competition. Everything was done by the kids and thought of by the kids," said Michelle Dudar, the mother of one of the Aftershock children. "It's trying to provide what sometimes lacks in traditional education. And there are many different problems to appeal to all different kids."

All three Queen of Angels teams placed in the regional tournament and the Aftershock kids will be going on to the world level, where they will compete against students from around the country and the world.

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