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Imagination takes kids on Odyssey

About 650 students across Fort Collins are getting ready to release their imaginations.

Students participating in Odyssey of the Mind have been meeting after school since the fall, working in groups to find solutions to problems posed by the national organizing group. On Saturday, about 100 teams from the city will come together to compete in one of Colorado's largest tournaments, said Sue Ballou, co-director of Poudre School District's Odyssey of the Mind program.

"The coolest thing about Odyssey for me is ... (kids) have to do it all themselves," she said. "For a lot of kids, it's the first time in their lives that it's not parents saying, "Why don't you try this?' "

Students who participate in the club must choose from five problems and come up with a solution using minimal adult instruction, Ballou said. Teams of up to seven students work together and prepare an eight-minute skit in which they present their solution to judges, Ballou said.

Everything - from the script to the props - must be entirely created by the students themselves, she said. The adult coaches aren't allowed to provide teams with solutions and instead are supposed to help keep control and provide guidance to the teams as they work.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade can form teams, which compete in divisions according to grade level, Ballou said. The majority of teams in this year's competition are in elementary schools.

On Thursday afternoon, eight teams from Bennett IB World School were running through a final practice before Saturday's competition at Fossil Ridge High School.

In the gym, fifth-grader Braden Wormus and his five teammates ran through their skit about American tourists traveling Australia. His team built a one-person vehicle using wooden planks and a bike chain, which moved the car using pedals.

Braden, 10, said the hardest part for him was learning to work with teammates.

"Teamwork always pays off. But teamwork isn't the easiest thing to do," he said.

Seven-year-old Bryce Murcyn said the hardest part was sewing his banana costume.

"I had to sew the costume," he said. "And I had to cut it out."

Coaches are allowed to teach students how to use tools needed for their end result, such as sewing machines or drills, Ballou said.

For Addi Schwieterman, the hardest part was letting her imagination roam free.

"It's kind of difficult when you're used to parents telling you what to do and how it would work," the second-grader said.

Kris Seen, Bennett's Odyssey of the Mind coordinator and a team coach, said she's always blown away each year by the creativity that teams exhibit.

"I feel very enlightened to be around them. As adults, we get kind of clouded by the way things are supposed to be and we forget about the possibilities," she said.

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