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Seacrest's Odyssey of the Mind team advances to finals

Seacrest Country Day School is on a roll it hopes will continue April 10 in Orlando.

On that date, four teams from the school will compete in the state finals of the annual Odyssey of the Mind competition at the University of Central Florida.

The Davis Boulevard school batted 1,000 at the regional competition, held March 6 in Cape Coral, by having each of the four teams it sent qualify for the state final meet.

The head coach is Edward D'Alessandro of Marco island, whose daughter, Alegra, is also a team member.

More than 190 schools from Collier, Lee, Sarasota, Hendry and Glades counties participated in the regionals.

"I was so happy, I was just smiling," said Claudio Pergolizzi, a fifth-grader who is one of six members of Seacrest's elementary-school division team. "I thought I was going to burst into confetti."

Seacrest also has two teams in the middle-school division and one high-school division squad taking part in the state finals. Victorious teams will move on to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Michigan State University.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international competition that emphasizes creative problem solving and teamwork to be successful. Planned activities and spontaneous performances by each team are scored by judges as part of the program.

There will be about 330 schools with 8,000 students taking part in the state finals, said Marty Durham, who coordinates Seacrest's program. Seacrest's elementary team tackled the Column Structure problem.

The problem requires teams to design and build balsa-wood columns that will balance and support as much weight as possible. The columns cannot be connected to each other and the structure is tested by placing weights on it. Weight is added until the column structure breaks.

While demonstrating the structure's weight-bearing capacity, teams must also perform a skit, using a set and props, related to the problem. Seacrest team's skit has a Greek mythology theme, with Hercules leaping from Olympus and landing on the Acropolis, crushing its columns.

With that, one of the team members declares the need to make the columns stronger. The demonstration and the skit must all be completed within eight minutes.

Seacrest's Column Structure held 35 pounds at the regionals before breaking, said Mark Sievers, a co-coach of the squad along with fellow Naples resident Kristy Rea. Sievers lauded the team members, all age 9 to 11, for their cooperative spirit and ingenuity.

Durham said Odyssey enables participants to grow in important ways.

"Anytime you teach a child how to think differently and still have measurable goals, you're gaining a new skill," she said.

"Odyssey of the Mind has set rules, but they ask you to think about how to meet those rules in a different way. That's a life skill that's so valuable."

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