| The Troy Record |
Troy school to compete in Odyssey world finals

By Danielle Sanzone
TROY -- Ten-year-old Ava Sweeney will be among the first in her school to make it to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals and she said she is especially looking forward to learning about the other countries which will be represented at next month's event in Michigan.

At least 40 countries will send students to the championship in East Lansing and each will have a booth about their culture. Sweeney wants to find the Japanese booth.

"I know how to write my name in Japanese and I really want to see their booth and learn more," said the fifth grade student at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

She is one of seven girls taking the trip to give a presentation they have worked on since October.

The group, led by parent Gwen Testo, moved on from February's regional competition in Rensselaer to the state level in March in Binghamton. They ranked in the top few in their division and are now set to take an 11-hour road trip to the Great Lakes state.

Costs aside, flying to the competition would have been hard just because of the large props and sets for their presentation, said Testo.

The students concocted a Napigator Navigator time machine, which they spin around to travel through time, and have a couple background settings including a "OLLYWOO" sign in Los Angeles which lost its "H" and "D" and was designed to show environmental issues with garbage.

The current backgrounds are made of cardboard but the girls are now working on making sturdier, collapsible sets for the trip.

Each of the students in the presentation is either a scientist or an archaeologist and represents different countries, which foreign culture-loving Sweeney said was her idea.

"My favorite part of the presentation is the song we sing at the end which we all came up with," she added.

Sophia Testo, 10, said it was hard at first to come up with ideas for the project but it was easy and fun once they got going and started brainstorming.

The Odyssey of the Mind program gives a problem to solve and student teams must give a presentation which solves the problem. In this case, the students had to discover an ancient treasure and then a modern-day treasure. The Sacred Heart students decided to find the Dead Sea Scrolls and then the Hollywood sign.

"I think their Catholic influence came out with the Dead Sea Scrolls idea," said Testo's mother who is also the team leader. "I had never even heard of this program until October and now we are on our way to the World Finals. It's unbelievable."

The team needs to fundraise about $12,500 to cover competition fees, transportation, and lodging for the girls and their families. An '80s night fundraiser is slated for May 8 at The Barn in the Rensselaer Tech Park, and a car wash is April 25 at the Advanced Auto Parts on Pawling Avenue. The group is also asking businesses and elected officials for donations.

"This promotes not only creativity but problem solving and working together," said Testo.

The group is the only one in their division representing the area. The team members include: Madison Miller, Sarah Ingalsbe, Gareth Kaedy, Jill Picarillo, Testo, and Sweeney.

Donations can be sent to: Sacred Heart School, Attention OotM, 308 Spring Ave., Troy, NY 12180.

Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 270-1292, by email at dsanzone@troyrecord.com, or @DanielleSanzone on Twitter.

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