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Odyssey of Valley Springs

Julie Ball
SKYLAND -- In the coming weeks, a team of six students from Valley Springs Middle School will be testing and perfecting their ideas for the design of a balsa wood structure.

They are among students from four local schools who are preparing for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Ames, Iowa, in May.

"The big thing is teamwork," said Michael Sutton, who coaches the Valley Springs team. "They learn how to work together. They learn how to be creative."

Along with Valley Springs, teams from Roberson High , North Buncombe High and Pisgah Elementary schools also will be heading to Iowa on May 27-30 for the competition.

Local teams have done well in previous years, according to Anne Clodfelter, exceptional children's curriculum manager for Buncombe County schools.

"We have had repeat winners from the state OotM to compete (at the world competition)," Clodfelter said.

Last year, the team from Pisgah Elementary took third place in their division at the world competition.

"We're excited that this is a way to showcase these kids that have this creative ability," Clodfelter said.

To get to the world event, students competed at both the regional and state level.

The teams from Valley Springs and Roberson both took first place in their divisions for the "Shock Waves" problem at the state competition held earlier this month.

Students design and build structure out of balsa wood and glue, with the goal of making it hold as much weight as possible while absorbing shock waves.

"They put in long hours, especially in the weeks leading up to the competition," Sutton said. "The main part of their problem is the structure, which they will build before they leave (for the competition)."

In addition to building a structure, the students also put on a skit and must handle a spontaneous problem.

The spontaneous problem can be verbal, hands-on or a combination.

"They are judged on teamwork. They are judged on creativity, and they have to work fast," Clodfelter said.

The Valley Springs team consists of Madden Brewster, Claire Hansen, Stuart Kocha, Anastasia Soule, Kristian Wilken and Josa Worthy.

"The kids take great pride in it (taking part in the competition), and it's something that they enjoy," Sutton said.

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