| The Salt Lake Tribune |
Students embark on an Odyssey of the Mind

By Vince Horiuchi
Education >> Students from around the state gather for problem-solving competition.

Ted Hibbs gives instructions to a team of students from Lincoln Academy in Pleasant Grove during the Odyssey of the Mind Competition at Utah Valley University in Orem on Saturday. The students built a trailer out of a wooden door and cardboard. (Vince Horiuchi / The Salt Lake Tribune)Orem ? Thirteen-year-old Brayden Farley had a heck of a time Saturday trying to maneuver his homemade "camper/trailer" around the conference room at the Utah Valley University student center.

Brayden and five buddies from Pleasant Grove's Lincoln Academy designed their "trailer" for the Odyssey of the Mind Utah competition, a problem-solving tournament for school kids held at the Orem college. The pedal-powered camper they created was made of an old wooden door, pipes, bicycle rims, duct tape, and a whole lot of imagination -- some of it perhaps a little misguided.

The problem was that their simplistic vehicle -- made of a cardboard box that folded out into a camper -- had the steering wheel in the back , so Brayden had to pedal and stop just to turn the wheel behind him. It took him forever to drive around the conference room pillars and through an imaginary "forest" made of painted cardboard. He appeared a tad frustrated as a small audience looked on

"It was a lot easier on cement," Brayden said about pedaling the team's invention. "I didn't know they were going to have carpet."

It's not like the boys from Lincoln created something that's going to wow Airstream, but the camper they designed for the contest was all their own.

The Odyssey of the Mind is a national competition involving kindergartners up to college students who are given a problem they have to solve. This year's problems

included building an aircraft that must fly a series of flight plans, creating a skit about a food item (which explains why one kid was dressed as a box of animal crackers), and designing a wooden structure that can hold as much weight as possible. They were then judged on their creativity and how well they work as a team.

"The great thing about Odyssey is the kids do it all on their own, and they're not allowed to have outside assistance," said Becky Brouwer, who heads the tournament. "It teaches them to brainstorm and to resolve conflicts within the group."

Rowan University technology professor C. Samuel Micklus started the competition in 1978. It now features contests in 30 states and 20 countries and culminates in the world finals next month at the University of Michigan.

Saturday's Utah competition was the first in the state in more than 10 years, said Brouwer, who decided to revive the event here after running it in California. It drew more than 200 Utah kids who competed in three age divisions and five problem-solving categories.

"They're having a great time and doing well," said Ted Hibbs, a judge from Colorado. "Some of the things they made are really cool."

"Cool" was the word to describe Jordana Burns' makeshift camper/trailer, which she and her team made of wood, wagon wheels and then painted a fluorescent pink and orange to reflect its "hippy" roots.

"Our theme was to be hippy because it's fun," said the 14-year-old from Kimber Academy in Lehi while sporting a tie-dyed T-shirt to complete the effect. "You could be creative with a lot of colors."

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