Students learn to stretch their minds

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An international problem solving competition for students from kindergarten through college will continue despite recent litigation over the direction of the program.

The 1999-2000 Odyssey of the Mind program will once again be available in every state in the United States and internationally.

This year, the program has six long-term problems that students may choose to work on. The first is the "elasti-pumper" where students in high school will design, build and drive a vehicle powered by elastic materials and an up-and-down pumping motion caused by the driver. This vehicle, with trailer in tow, will make three journeys and the team will change the appearance of the areas using materials from the vehicle and trailer. Before the vehicle is finished, the team will incorporate its vehicle and the visual changes into an eight-minute presentation. Teams may only spend $100 on the project.

The "pest-aside" program is open to all divisions and involves team members performing an eight-minute presentation in which they devise contraptions that perform events to ultimately catch or scare away a team-created pest. The performance will include the pest striking back, but the humans prevail in the end. A limit of $125 has been set for this program.

The legend of King Arthur will make the students performing in the "classics ... King Arthur" competition use their imagination. This problem offers one of the legends of King Arthur and his knights and students will present their idea of how that legend evolved had King Arthur never existed. In an eight-minute performance, teams will include a legendary character and an original, team-made tapestry, coat of arms and flag. For an added challenge, team members will wear and support all materials they plan to use in their presentation. Maximum amount to be spent is $100.

The "shrinking structure" is also open to all divisions and incorporates the design and building of a structure made of balsa wood and glue. This structure will hold as much weight as possible and once weight is supported by the structure, the structure must "shrink" from a height of 9 to 10 inches to a height of 8 inches. Only $75 may be spent on materials for this project.

"The Genie" will involve students imagining themselves being granted three wishes by a genie. Students will be asked to act out a skit where the genie places restrictions on the wishes, one wish backfires and another unintentionally affects an animal, and all for $100.

A program designed for students under 8 years old is the "make believe zoo." Students will create five new animals and a habitat and in an eight-minute performance they will teach the audience about their new animals.

In Craig, Judy Muldoon is the area director for the Odyssey of the Mind program and has been coaching a team for seven years. According to Muldoon, all work done for the different divisions is done only by the students.

"In the program you use team skills and your imagination," she said. "Anything used has to be generated by the students."

Craig has three teams. Coached by Paula Kinkaid is a team of fifth-graders from Craig Intermediate School and Muldoon coaches a fourth-grade Sunset Elementary School team and a sixth-grade Craig Intermediate School team. Participants will have their first meeting next week and in that meeting they will decide which of the six programs they want to work on.

Students will work on the project until April, when they will travel to Grand Junction to compete in the regional tournament. Winners of the regional tournament will compete in the state tournament and those winners will go to nationals. The national tournament incorporates international teams.

Last year, thousands of student teams from across the United States and in 42 other countries entered tournaments in creativity on the local, state and international levels.

Muldoon expressed the need for coaches in the area. Anyone over age 18 with one hour of time to volunteer a week is welcome to coach. As students are required to do all the work with little or no input from the coach, the work load of the coach is minimal.

"Coaches simply provide the tools to solve the problem," Muldoon said.

According to Muldoon, Odyssey of the Mind is a great program for students to participate in.

"This is a great way for students to express themselves and there are no stops put on what they do," Muldoon said.

For more information on becoming a part of the Odyssey of the Mind team either as a coach or competitor, contact Judy Muldoon at 824-5762 or 824-5615.

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