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Crestwood Students Advance To World Odyssey Competition

May 17, 2019 GMT

By linking a wheel to a sprocket on each side of a cart, students from Crestwood High School devised a way to drive and steer their vehicle at the same time.

The idea won their team an award and propelled them and their cart all the way to Michigan State University for the world Odyssey of the Mind competition later this month.

On their cart, large enough to shuttle a student and some tools around a gymnasium floor, a chain loops between the wheel and the sprockets as on a bicycle. But the design borrows from another type of vehicle.

“It has independent steering, much like a wheelchair. If you turn one wheel and keep the other stationary, you turn in a circle,” Joshua Partington said.


The driver, Olivia Richards, powers the cart by pushing wooden planks along the top of the sprocket. Metal pins in the wood mesh with the sprocket’s teeth.

“I almost row over them. The chain teeth meet with the rod, and I glide forward,” Olivia said.

To turn, she rows forward with one hand and backward with the other.

Olivia, Joshua and their five teammates, Shannon Griffiths, Christopher Hannon, Claire Lenio, Ruthie Mullisky and Nicole Zuroski, all are ninth graders.

Competing against teams from other schools with players as old as 12th grade, the seven Crestwood students advanced through the regional tournament on March 9 to the state competition on April 6.

In the state meet at Pocono Mountain East, they didn’t win their category, but the judges rated their engineering so creative that they gave Crestwood a Ranatra Fusca Award and a pass to the world meet.

The team won’t be Crestwood’s first representatives at worlds. Four years ago, a team of fifth graders including Olivia, Shannon and Claire attended the world meet, and Ed Griffiths said Crestwood teams also went to worlds before he began coaching seven years ago.

An engineer at Susquehanna Nuclear Power Station, Griffiths started as an assistant coach when Shannon, his daughter and world team member, was in second grade.

This year Crestwood fielded 11 teams, all with volunteer coaches, and six of the teams advanced to the state competition.

“We are very grateful for all the hard working efforts by those parents/coaches and those students who well deserve our accolades. Every time I talk to them I am amazed by the things they are doing,” Crestwood Superintendent Joseph Rasmus said at a school board meeting on April 18.

Odyssey of the Mind gives students a workout in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


This year, for example, team members had to build a vehicle 12 inches high, 20 inches wide and 24 inches long that they could take apart, pack into suitcases and reassemble in eight minutes. The vehicle had to carry one person and perform tasks, including turn in a circle. Contest rules set a spending limit of $145 on materials.

Crestwood’s design includes a footrest that slides to accommodate the operator, a pole that expands so a door will open and a generator and capacitor that stores power for lighting. The breakthrough feature, though, was an independent drive for the right and left wheels.

“Ideas like this system are risky to convert linear motion to circular motion, and the team found a way to do it,” Griffiths said.

Joshua said the team tried different designs.

“We we on the verge of creative things but running out of time,” he said.

He floated an idea, which didn’t work exactly as planned. A teammate thought up a fix, and the cart was ready to roll.

Odyssey of the Mind, however, isn’t just an engineering contest. Artistry and creativity also score points.

The team had to write a skit for the cart’s journey, ending a parade for which the team remade decorations during a practice Monday.

At each competition, teams also complete a spontaneous challenge such as decorating a picture and writing a caption for it.

“The focus is on creativity and how well the team works together,” Christopher said.

To prepare for the world competition, the team has been revising its skit, remaking hardware on the cart and taking spontaneous challenges, which help them think fast even though they won’t know the actual challenge until it’s their turn to compete at Michigan State.

Crestwood team members said they’re curious about how students from other states and other countries designed vehicles and created skits to reflect their traditions.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people from other cultures: China, Singapore, Poland, Austria, Mexico,” Ruthie said.

Claire said her team will take pins, shirts and hats to trade with other students.

“I think it’s a cool experience,” she said.

Contact the writer:

kjackson@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3587