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Odyssey of the Mind team leaves for state tournament today

Seven students from Pinkston Middle School leave after school today to compete in the state Odyssey of the Mind competition at Arkansas State University Beebe -- Cara Conner, Landon Crider, Taylor Hasselwander, Maddy Lewis, Austin Rose, Tyler Shaw and Ben Thompson.

The team placed first at regionals in solving a long-term problem, and second overall, winning a place at the state tournament.

"They earned 159.5 points out of 200 in long-term," Benfield said. "The highest score last year was 135."

Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem-solving program for kids in kindergarten through college. Teams work all year on a long-term problem they choose from a list of possibilities provided by the organization, and they must also be prepared to solve a spontaneous problem on the spot. Problems range from interpreting literary works to building mechanical devices.

"They picked the one called 'Food Court', " Benfield said.

The students' challenge was to "create and present a humorous performance where a food item is accused of being unhealthy and must defend itself among its food peers. All characters are food items and include the accused, the accuser, a jury that is not portrayed by team members, and additional team-created characters. The jury will reveal its decision to the audience."

"They're a clever group," Benfield said. "It's very funny. The accused is a cream donut that claims he provides Vitamin C, as well as Vitamins R, E, A and M."

Teams are judged, Benfield said, on how well they solve their problem in a skit, how well their set matches the plot, set changes and originality.

The team placed second overall at regionals, Benfield said, because they struggled a little with their spontaneous problem.

Teams are given two minutes to think about a solution to a problem given to them on the spot, and four minutes to respond.

"They learned a lot at regionals and they've been practicing," she said.

A second Pinkston team competed at regionals but did not qualify for the state competition. On the team: Emily Armstrong, Maysa Fouts, Taylor Jones, Skyler Law, Sam Pelt, Hannah Plumlee, Kaci Yancey and Coach Kara Morris.

"They're all brand new members," Benfield said. "They did a really good job, and just barely missed it."

The "Food Court" team will be accompanied by their coach, Tammy Goeke, District Coordinator Kim Benfield, and the students' parents.

"We have great parent involvement this year," Benfield said. "All the parents are going."

If the team wins one of the two top spots at state, they'll go on to the World Finals May 26-29 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Watch for news in Monday's edition of The Bulletin.

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