Months of preparation go into Odyssey competition

March 05, 1997


Staff Writer

The toucan's beak is really two brightly colored soda cans glued end to end and attached to a ski mask.

The bony plates on the armadillo's back are paper plates painted gray to match the back of the faux fur tunic.

One of the porcupines has spines made from halved plastic drinking straws. The other sports multi-colored pipe cleaners on its back.

There's no doubt the seven-member Bester Elementary School team put a lot of work into creating the clever costumes for the skit they'll perform Saturday for this year's Western Maryland Regional Odyssey of the Mind Tournament.


Schools spend several months preparing for the event, which challenges students' creative problem-solving ability, said tournament director Georgiana Keller.

Bester Elementary School's team is one of 20 Washington County teams participating in the regional tournament, which will feature 41 teams from elementary, middle and high schools in Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Carroll counties, Keller said.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Emma K. Doub Elementary School, E. Russell Hicks Middle School and South Hagerstown High School. It is free and open to the public.

Teams will earn points in the competition based on their public presentation of a project that solves one of four long-term problems and their ability to solve new problems posed in a private session with judges, Keller said.

Students, working as a cooperative group, do all the planning, decision-making and actual work on the projects, Keller said.

Team coaches, usually teachers or parents, help students by answering questions and keeping them focused on their task, she said.

The Bester group chose "Heroic Proportions," a problem which challenged them to create and present a humorous performance that includes a character with one or more out-of-proportion characteristics that give it a special ability or abilities.

Group members - fourth- and fifth-graders - originally thought they'd set their skit on an island but decided a rainforest would be easier, said fifth-grader Trang Phan.

Phan, 11, plays Irene Pinecone, one of two porcupines in the skit, which also includes an armadillo named Erf, a joke-cracking toucan named Twocan Joke and Jaguarundi, a black, jaguar-like creature.

Fifth-grader Jordan Kisiel plays the main character, Mr. Pine, a porcupine who has extra-large feet and wears glasses.

North Hagerstown High School science teacher Wayne Rinehart said it was only natural that his all-senior team chose the "Double Trouble" problem, which required them to design and build one weight-bearing structure made up of two different balsa wood and glue structures.

"Most of the kids that are in there are interested in advanced science and engineering," said Rinehart, who has been coaching Odyssey of the Mind teams for about 10 years.

Students planned to make a working model to find out how much weight their design would bear, but ran short of time, said Rinehart. Instead, they're relying on theoretical estimates, he said.

Four Washington County elementary school teams chose the "Omerdroid" problem, which required them to create and present a humorous performance featuring a team-made android with physical human features.

Hickory Elementary School's team was having problems getting its life-size and very realistic android to stand on its own, so members decided to require it to use a wheelchair, said coach Cathy Scuffins.

The "Classics ... Can You Dig It?" - requiring students to create four ancient artifacts and depict their use and later archaeological discovery - was the most popular choice, with nine county schools taking it on.

St. Maria Goretti High School's six-member team of ninth- and 10th-graders decided to set their skit in Rome, said coach Charles Wagaman, who has been working with his children's Odyssey of the Mind teams for nine years.

Boonsboro High School's team - including six ninth-graders and an eighth-grader from Boonsboro Middle School, set their skit in prehistoric times, said first-time coach Karlen Goerner.

Saturday's winners will participate in the state competition on April 12 at University of Maryland, Baltimore. State winners will participate in the world competition June 4 to 7 at University of Maryland, College Park.

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