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Memorial Odyssey of the Mind team headed to world finals

May 2, 2019

After cooking up some innovation, seven Walnut Bend Elementary School students are raising funds to compete in the 2019 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals later this month.

The fourth and fifth graders learned they would be on the school’s problem-solving team last fall, but the real work started in January when they returned from winter break. Since then, they have met for several hours each week, working and engineering. For the second year in a row, that hard work has paid off.

On May 21, the students will travel to Michigan State University, where they will compete with some great problem-solvers from across the world and nation. They will present a specially designed structure and a present a performance they call “Kitchen Carnival.”

“Structure Toss” requires that students use raw materials like balsa wood to build a structure that can hold up. The performance theme is carnival games, but the Walnut Bend students decided to create a carnival set in a kitchen with foods like Green Giant, Little Debbie and Lucky Charms that come to life as the cooks leave. Carnival games include a Strongman “thermometer” and a specially rigged pie-in-the-face setup.

“It’s basically a carnival, but instead of having it outside at like a field or a park, it’s happening in a kitchen,” fifth grader Brody said. “And we did that because of lot of other teams would probably do a normal one. We tried to be more creative because that’s what Odyssey of the Mind is all about.”

This year, the structure must hold up through a toss of 4, 7 or 10 feet. In the regional and state competitions, the structure did well from 10 feet, so the team plans to go for that maximum amount at the world finals to grab the most points. Designing a structure that would not break took a lot of trial and error though.

“It has to cross a bar and land on the other side without falling apart, and a lot of them did,” Principal Michele Dahlquist.

She said each year brings a new group of students onto the team with different strengths and qualities, but they ultimately pull together. “We had some kids that were fifth graders last year that moved on to middle school, so bringing new personalities into the team is always an interesting, you know, journey along the way.”

Fourth grader Daniella said being on this year’s team has taught her a lot about working together with others, being quick-thinking and expanding her creativity. Each of the students agreed that Odyssey of the Mind helps them in their other classes, like being able to present in front of others.

Students across the world can compete in Odyssey of the Mind through their college years. Elliot is a fifth grader and one of three students that will move on next year to a middle school that doesn’t currently have a team. But he is excited that another student that has previously competed for Walnut Bend is already there, paving the way for a new middle school team.

The Walnut Bend team hopes to raise $10,000 for their trip expenses through their GoFundMe account. Fifth grader Melyna said Houstonians should support the team to “give kids a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It will be fun for them, and you’ll learn a lot from it.”

Last year, the school’s team placed second at the world finals, beaten only by a team from China. Although the seven Walnut Bend students hope to come home with top honors in a few weeks, they are mostly relishing in the learning, experience and fun they are having.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com

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