Seven students at Wake Forest High School have their sights set on the world finals of the Odyssey of the Mind competition.
They just have one more hurdle to clear: raising $10,000 to get them to Michigan State University on May 20.
The team has already raised more than $5,000 through a GoFundMe online fundraiser. That will cover the costs for the competition registration, said theater teacher Marie Jones.
“The town is very proud to have a team compete at the world level,” Jones said.
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Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that promotes critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Teams of seven pick a problem to tackle and present their solutions through skits and other creative means.
“It’s not a theater competition, it’s a creativity competition,” said senior team member Denise Sherow. “It’s easy for us to create a skit and be expressive with that.”
Wake Forest High School has three Odyssey of the Mind teams, all through Jones’ theater classes. The other two teams did not make it to the world finals.
The winning team has had its share of challenges. Two weeks of snow and ice interrupted the practice schedule.
The team, made up of junior and senior theater students, had a lot of ideas to solve the problem assigned to them. And sometimes, their solutions backfired or didn’t work.
One of the things that set the winning team apart is that the students opted for one of the toughest problems to solve, Jones said.
They had to solve technical problems, like releasing a banner and ringing a bell, with rubber bands. The problem had several pages of restrictions on how it could be done.
Students also create an original skit to share their solutions.
The Wake Forest students came up with a concept of being a 1960s-era band, aptly named The Rubber Band, that experiences technical difficulties during a performance.
A “mysterious engineer character” – required by Odyssey of the Mind’s rules – helps the band fix its technical troubles.
The character’s name? Pat Benatar.
“Other teams may have had the devices, but they didn’t have the concept,” said team member Griffin Salyer, a senior.
Jones has offered Odyssey of the Mind as one of two major assignments in her class since 2010.
“It’s working with what we have around us to solve our problems in our world,” she said.
The competition also shows students the benefits of collaboration.
“There’s nothing I can do in the classroom that can teach that lesson,” Jones said.
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Want to help?
Wake Forest High School’s Odyssey of the Mind team is seeking donations from local businesses for raffles and will hold several restaurant nights to raise money. Donations are also being accepted online through the the team’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/sjydwg.
Denise Sherow, Griffin Salyer, Mason Wilkinson and Alyssa Allen are seniors.
Kian Fonicello, Regan Barbour and Jay Abhau are juniors.