Maine kids exercise their mental muscles
Teams advance in competition
By Dave Choate
KITTERY, Maine -- Two Odyssey of the Mind teams from Shapleigh Middle School will compete on the world stage in May.
Fresh off a victory at the state Odyssey of the Mind championships in Sanford last weekend, the school's Division I (fourth and fifth grade) and Division II (sixth grade) winning teams will head to East Lansing, Mich., for the world competitions on Memorial Day weekend. It's a huge victory for the third-year Odyssey program at the school, according to Shapleigh teacher and Division II team coach Andy Weatherhead, to have two of the school's 12 participating teams place at the top of the state.
Their competition? Teams from most of the 50 states and 20 countries around the world.
In the three years the program has been underway in Kittery, the team also previously earned a second-place finish in Maine and sent a team to finals in Maryland. He said that while students will do their best at the competition, he'll be reminding them of what an honor it is just to be selected for the competition.
"It's a good chance for them," said Weatherhead. "It's an outlet for their creative side."
In addition to bringing out students' natural problem-solving skills and creativity, Weatherhead said it gives them experience with the trial-and-error of conducting experiments and overcoming obstacles, a valuable life skill.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program where teams of students tackle problems in creative ways. Weatherhead said each team has several months to prepare for one problem, and has another given to them the day of the competition, forcing them to quickly find a solution and present it to the judges.
In the case of both teams advancing to Michigan, the problem the students began working on in earnest in January was one of flight. The sixth grade team, Weatherhead said, had to devise a way to deliver a payload to a small target, choosing to do so by attaching helium balloons to a basket that was rigged to collapse when it hit the ground, rolling the payload out and onto the targeted landing spot.
Weatherhead estimated that the teams would need to raise about $15,000 to fully fund transportation, places to stay and other expenses for the trip for the 13 students and the two coaches. A dance fundraiser was held Friday night, and Weatherhead said more will be held in the future for those interested in helping out with the trip.
"The program has just taken off. The students are excited about it, and the community is, too," he said.
For information, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com.
Contact Andy Weatherhead at 207-439-2572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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