Portland school teams need funds to reach final 'Odyssey'

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PORTLAND — Several teams from city schools could be headed to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at the end of May – if they can raise enough money to get there.

The teams earning an invitation to the competition this spring are from Lincoln Middle School, Lyman Moore Middle School and Lyseth Elementary School. The team from Lincoln also includes members from King Middle School and Portland High School.

The world finals will be held at the University of Michigan, May 24-27. To get there, the middle school teams must each raise about $7,000; the Lyseth team is trying to raise $2,500.

All three have GoFundMe and Facebook pages and are also planning a variety of different fundraisers during the next month.

According to Odyssey of the Mind, an international nonprofit that encourages creative problem-solving and hands-on engagement, this year more than 825 teams from around the world will compete in the 38th finals.

The Odyssey of the Mind season begins with the announcement of the year’s various problems or challenges.

Each team chooses five or six challenges and then spends about six months creating their solutions, which must be “completely creative and original,” according to the organization.

And while each team has adult coaches, it’s up to the students to design and build the solutions in one of several categories: vehicle, technical, classics, structure or performance.

This year, for instance, the Lincoln team developed a skit “in which we depicted a superhero character that stopped time and defeated a creativity thief,” coach Nancy Keast said.

Keast said the Lincoln team, which this year includes Sabelle Guido, Madison Hurley, Matthew Keast, Megan Keast, Quincy Kern-Johnson and Anna Troxell, has earned the right to attend the world finals several times before, but due to “financial constraints” the team was not able to compete. 

She said if the team isn’t able to raise the full amount needed, “there’s a possibility that not all team members will be able to go” and this would be a difficult choice to make because “our team has been together as a group for a number of years.”

For those who don’t wish to donate online, Keast said checks supporting the team should be sent to: Lincoln Middle School Odyssey of the Mind, 522 Stevens Ave., Portland, ME 04103.

The team from Lyman Moore has seven members: Alyson Mina, James Rohde, Carolyn McCallum, Daniel Niles, Charlie Brewer, Olivia Brewer and Nathan Milliken. The coaches are Katie Milliken and Holly Sheehan Niles.

This team has also been together for several years and, last year, was able to get to the world finals, where “they had such a blast, that at the closing ceremonies they were already plotting how to get to Michigan,” Mary Beth Rohde, the team’s spokeswoman said this week.

For this year’s competition season the team from Lyman Moore chose the vehicle challenge.

Called, “Catch Us if You Can,” Rohde said there were “a lot of technical requirements” since the students had to “design, build and run three different vehicles that travel from a team-made parking garage along different routes to a secret meeting place.”

She said each vehicle was also required to have a different propulsion system and be engineered to do something that prevented a villain from following. For example, Rohde said, one of the vehicles drops thumbtacks.

“It required a lot of creativity, trial and error, and patience,” she added. “It’s (science, technology engineering and math) thinking in a very hands-on way.”

What makes Odyssey of the Mind so special, Rohde said, is that it provides “an opportunity, other than sports, for kids to collaborate and make decisions as a team, and learn to help and support each other.”

Along with its GoFundMe page, the team from Lyman Moore is also holding a bottle drive on Saturday, April 29, as well as a pizza night and a raffle.

The team from Lyseth Elementary also has seven members, all fifth-graders: Caden Hemond, Finn Snow, Darin Taddeo, Ainsley McCrum, Fiona Johnson, Gabriel Winch and Sophie Hill. This team is coached by Cynthia Curry and Denise Taddeo.

Like the team from Lyman Moore, the Lyseth team also chose to compete with the “Catch Us if You Can” problem, Curry said.

She said this would be the first chance for this team, which has been together since first grade, to go to the world finals.

In addition to online fundraising the team from Lyseth is holding a raffle, a golf tournament and other community events.

What Curry most likes about Odyssey of the Mind is that it “gives kids an opportunity to problem-solve on their own terms. Our team works together for months to solve a common problem that stretches their abilities to communicate, collaborate and create.

“Kids have to think critically to solve the elements of the problem. The structure of (Odyssey of the Mind) contributes to the most beneficial outcome of any team’s experience, which is that more is learned from the process of developing a solution, than from the final competitive rankings.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

A team from Lincoln Middle School is one of three from Portland trying to get to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at the end of May. From left are Sabelle Guido, Madison Hurley, Megan Keast, Quincy Kern Johnson, Matthew Keast and Anna Troxell.

The team from Lyman Moore Middle School is hoping to get to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals for the second year in a row. Left of the stairs are Alyson Mina and Carolyn McCallum, with Nathan Milliken kneeling. On the upper stair, from left, are Daniel Niles, Olivia Brewer, James Rohde and Charlie Brewer.

This team from Lyseth Elementary is hoping to get to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals for the first time. Standing, from left, are Caden Hemond, Finn Snow, Darin Taddeo and Ainsley McCrum; kneeling, from left, are Fiona Johnson, Gabriel Winch and Sophie Hill.

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