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Odyssey no problem for North students

Group is headed to world competition

At least once a week, every week since October, seven North Fort Myers High students have gathered at one another's homes to solve a lingering problem.

The group is one of many in Lee County who participated in the Odyssey of the Mind State Competition in Orlando on April 10. And now the team - along with five other Lee County teams including one from Cape Elementary - are moving forward to the world championships in Michigan May 26-29.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving competition for students beginning in kindergarten through college.

"I've been doing it ever since second grade, and I've loved it every year," said Kent Miller, 16, a member of the North Fort Myers team.

But now, the team has the challenge of figuring out how to raise about $1,200 for each student to make their way to the competition.

Most of the members in the group have been working together for the past few years. North Fort Myers High didn't have any Odyssey teams until last year because of a lack of team sponsors. This year, the team chose to participate in the Nature Trail'R Division III category and won first place at the state competition.

The students had to create a human-powered vehicle and camper that could go on a camping trip. The vehicle had to overcome an obstacle, clean up the environment, encounter wildlife, and undergo a repair.

So the students created a large lobster with a row boat style mechanism that allowed it to walk.

"At times we had to break out trigonometry in order to get the legs to work," said Josh Shidel, 17.

The vehicle was made of a basic wood frame, an old folding chair as the seat for the operator, and the legs were made of wood and tire tread. The team was only allowed to spend $145 on all materials.

Each member of the group was dressed as an underwater creature as they acted out a skit that coincided with their problem.

"It's nice, you get to be as creative as you want to be," Shidel said. "You can act and sing, it's a big production."

Group members estimate they've spent at least 40 hours every month on the project since October. That's aside from their academic responsibilities and other extracurricular activities.

"It's eight months for eight minutes," Miller said. "You spend all that time for eight minutes in front of the judges. But you would never give it up."

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