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Local teen to participate in 2009 Odyssey of the Mind
Resident's team placed first in regional competition


After having worked with his team for more than five months and placing first in a regional competition, Allen Serrell, 14, of Bokeelia is on his way to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals next month.

"I have been participating in OotM for seven years and I am very happy that we made it this time," said Serrell. "I am really looking forward to going to the world finals to meet people who will be coming here from other countries."

The OotM World Finals will take place from May 27-30 at Iowa State University. The finals will include not only U.S. students, but students from Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, Uzbekistan and more.

According to Serrell, the team will be doing the same project that earned it the privilege of representing the state of Florida in Iowa.

"Or project was to act out a classic problem and we selected the lost labor of Hercules having to do with Persephone, the daughter of Hades," Serrell said. "According to Greek mythology, Hercules had to complete 12 labors in order to become a god and the lost labor was somehow lost in history. So, part of our project was to come up with the lost labor and perform it."

In OotM competitions, teams are scored for coming up with long-term problem solutions, how well they solve a spontaneous problem and the elaboration of their long-term problem solution. The premiss behind Odyssey of the Mind is to instill the skills that will enable individuals to work as a team, learning cooperation and respect for one another. Also to bolster self-esteem, working within a budget, and realizing there is often more than one way to solve a problem.

According to Serrell, the team's work independently and cannot enlist any outside assistance. His team was responsible for props, costumes and the script.

"I would encourage others to participate in OotM. It is a lot of fun and it's a great way to make friends. You really don't know other people until you work with them as a team," Serrell said.

The other students on Serrell's team are Michelle Montoya, Arianna Pursel, Elizabeth Santiago, Robby Owen, Nicholas Lemon and Justin Exposito, who are all eighth grade students at Diplomat Middle School. In addition to recreating their winning performance of the Lost Labor of Hercules while at Iowa State, the team will enjoy a creativity festival, Pin Trade, a float and banner parade and a NASA presentation.

Odyssey of the Mind is a non-profit international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Schools or community groups can purchase an OotM membership and form teams of up to seven students. Each team then chooses one of five competitive problems to solve. Some of the problems involved are technical in nature, while others are artistic or performance-oriented.

Celebrating 30 years, Odyssey of the Mind was created in 1978 by Dr.C. Samuel Micklus, a professor at Rowan University in New Jersey. Micklus still develops all problems used in the program.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to be faced by Serrell and his team will be raising the needed funds to make the journey to the finals.

"The Diplomat team consists of seven students and their coaches, Suzanne O'Jibway, Susan Parks and Amy Bray. The students and two of the coaches are invited to attend the World Finals in Ames, Iowa, and they will need to raise $15,000 in order to attend," said Allen's mother, Karen Serrell. "It is our hope that we can get some support from the Pine Island community so that this team gets the opportunity to not only represent Florida, but Pine Island as well at this prestigious event."

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Diplomat Middle School, Odyssey of the Mind, 1039 N.E. 16th Terrace, Cape Coral, FL 33909.

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