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Challenger team places in top 10 at Odyssey of the Mind

By Staff | Jul 29, 2009

Facing more than 700 teams from all around the globe, the Odyssey of the Mind team from Challenger Middle School finished in an impressive ninth place.

The world competition took place at the University of Iowa in Ames, Iowa and doubled as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Odyssey of the Mind competitions.

Six teammates worked for months to meet the challenge of constructing an electrically propelled vehicle capable of accomplishing several designated feats. The first success for the team found them in first place in the regional division and second place in the statewide competition. Also at the state level, the team was bestowed with the honor of Ranatrafusca, which is the highest awarded granted for creativity in the competition. With this victory, the Challenger team was invited to attend the International competition in Iowa. This, however, presented the team with another challenge as it would need to raise the funds that would take it to the competition.

“We did a lot of different things to raise money. We had a bake sale, a rummage sale and solicited donations out in front of stores,” said Gerilynn Rossman, 13, who was a seventh grade student last year. “We even had a pancake breakfast at Beef O’Brady’s where we were the hostesses and waiters. Thanks to our principal, Terri Cannady, we also were very successful selling ice cream and snacks at school.”

Rossman said the team also received donations from several Pine Island groups.

“With all of our fund-raising, the most generous contributions came from Pine Island,” said Rossman. “Without their help we would not have been able to go to the world championship.”

The festivities at the Odyssey of the Mind World Competition began with a parade during the opening ceremony.

“The opening ceremony took place in the big stadium at the college. A member from each of the state and country teams marched into the stadium carrying banners and had different noise makers,” said Rossman. “Each of the teams also came into the stadium doing something different. Our team danced around and had a good time.”

In addition to the competition, the teams also were treated to several activities which included a “pin” swap.

“All of the kids had pins that represented the places they came from. One of the funnest things we did was meet to swap pins. This gave us a chance to meet kids from all over the world,” Rossman said.

One of the major sponsors of the event was NASA, which, among others, had a booth set up were the students could learn more about the aerospace industry. Other booths were set up offering a variety of learning games and puzzles. The booth representing the state of Florida offered a maze challenge which was well received by those attending.

When the competition began, the Challenger team fared very well, according to Rossman. Among the challenges was one known as the spontaneous competition.

“Each team is presented with a random problem and was given five minutes to build something and five minutes to test what they had built. Our challenge was to build a small car from the materials we were provided and it had to run under its own power and travel unassisted,” said Rossman. “The other thing was that we could only have five of our team members and the coach could not help. As an incentive, our stress relief would be the opportunity to either dunk our coach in a kiddie pool, roll her in a mud pit or make her sing and dance in front of everyone. We told our coach that we would sing and dance with her if she let us make her into a giant sundae, which she agreed to. She is a great sport and this was a lot of fun.”

The coach for the team was Challenger Middle School’s teacher of the year, Rena White, who also was named science teacher of the year in Lee County.