Fresh from a Sonoma County first-place finish, the Windsor
Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team will be attending the state
competition this Saturday, April 5, in Visalia.
If the students win first or second place at state, they will go
on to the world competition in Ames, Iowa, in May.
This weekend, they will be competing against teams from all over
California, who placed either first or second at their regional
competition. The students are in the process of fund-raising to
help pay for transportation and lodging costs for the state
Odyssey of the Mind is a competition that presents students with
problem-solving opportunities and encourages original and divergent
thinking. The problems promote creativity by challenging teams to
solve problems that have more than one solution. “By working in
teams, participants learn teamwork, the appreciation and
understanding of others and that a group is a more powerful force
than an individual,” says the program’s website.
Once presented with the problem, students are asked to come up
with sets, props, costumes and scripts, to act out the solution.
These skits are humorous by design, encouraging creativity and
allowing the students to have fun in an otherwise demanding
“These students are highly motivated, very creative, excellent
students and a pleasure to work with,” said team advisor and coach
Dan Cutler.
The team consists of Nate Long, Ashley Floyd, Robin Decker,
Emily Sparacio and Kyle Ibrahim. Most of the team didn’t know each
other very well prior to meeting for Odyssey of the Mind, and now
they say they’re all close friends.
The students’ problem at the competition, entitled “A Scene From
Above,” was to build a three-dimensional representation of a scene
on earth as it would be viewed from space.
“The students chose to present the city of San Francisco and its
possible changes into the future, including a deterioration of the
city due to crime and budget problems followed by a brighter future
when the people vote out the mainstream politicians in favor of a
clown, Mr. Funnyman, to give the city a brighter and happier
future,” said Cutler.
Decker says that the team chose San Francisco because it would
be recognized by any crowd. “We finally chose S.F. because everyone
would know it and be able to relate,” she said. The team had first
considered using Windsor, but they were concerned that once they
left the regional competition few people would recognize the
Using the San Francisco backdrop as a stage, students were asked
to act out three scenes of an original humorous performance. There
is a catch. The set needs to change between scenes, and the only
way to move props is with three vehicles the students were asked to
design. These vehicles must be powered in different ways, with one
carrying its own energy source with the other two traveling on the
momentum caused by a different energy source. The total cost for
the three vehicles cannot exceed $135. If it sounds complicated,
it’s probably because NASA sponsors the event.
In response to the challenge, the WMS team developed a battery
operated garbage truck, a clown propelled by a catapult and a
tricycle propelled by a ramp. The garbage truck was one of the
team’s greatest accomplishments, as team electronics specialist
Nate Long modified the remote control vehicle to work using only an
electrical current. In enforcement of the $135 rule, students were
asked to fill out cost forms and outside assistance forms to prove
they were under budget and did the project on their own.
The team is happy with their act, but are constantly making
improvements to their props. Only time will tell what the team will
have when they travel to Visalia this weekend.

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