A silver, three-wheeled vehicle inspired by a Mars rover is taking a group of Leesville Road Elementary students all the way to Iowa.
The students won’t actually be riding the vehicle they designed until they arrive at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University in late May.
But the months of creative thinking and teamwork that went into the vehicle are what earned them a spot at the finals, which brings together teams from all over the world for what could be called an imagination competition.
Odyssey of the Mind asks students to solve long-term problems with a variety of outlandish parameters for how they show off their solution in themed presentations or skits.
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This year problems included designing a vehicle that had two types of propulsion systems, building a balsa wood structure to hold weights, and giving an original performance about a community that feels threatened by something in a location it has never visited.
The students also solve “spontaneous” problems or brain teasers and puzzles at the competition itself.
The Leesville team is one of three from Raleigh that earned a spot in the competition after finishing first or second in their division and problem category at the state contest earlier this month.
“It’s been really cool to watch these kids work together as a team,” said Andy Plaice, a coach of the Leesville team.
Most of the students on the team had never participated in OM and had to learn how to work together to share ideas, he said.
For Aidan Plaice, 10, working with other kids is one of the best parts.
“We were able to make friends with people we normally wouldn’t have” he said.
The McOmers, a group sponsored by Southbridge Fellowship church, are headed to the finals with their original performance about a threatened community. While its the first year for the team under the Southbridge name, many of the students did OM together as students at Sycamore Creek.
Joining together through the church was a way to continue working together as many of the teammates headed off to different middle schools.
Andy Moore, the coach at Southbridge, said it’s been interesting to watch as the team members grow older and become increasingly independent.
While there’s more they can do on their own, their enthusiasm for the program hasn’t waned a bit.
“They're already talking about next year,” he said.
The third group, from Partnership Elementary School, qualified for the Worlds Finals with a balsa wood sculpture that held 163 pounds at the state competition.
The trip to the finals comes with a hefty price tag, and the teams are raising money. Leesville has set up a donation page at indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-get-to-odyssey-of-the-mind-world-finals.