Portland students prepare for Odyssey in Iowa

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PORTLAND — They’re not in Kansas anymore. Instead, some students from Harrison Lyseth Elementary School are on their way to Iowa.

The students are headed to Iowa State University to compete against peers from around the world in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, an international program where teams of students work together at solving complex problems.

Fourteen Lyseth students were split into two teams, and the problem they solved was called “No-Cycle Recycle,” where they had to design and build vehicles that moved without pedaling or propulsion. They also had to incorporate recycling into a skit while demonstrating the vehicle. One of the team’s skits had the vehicle traveling down the Yellow Brick Road in a “Wizard of Oz” theme.

Holly Sheehan, a parent and team coach, said the students had to select a long-term problem to solve. Both teams had to design and build a vehicle that could be ridden by two children that would drive into different “ecosystems” to pick up recyclables deposited by a crane-like device the students designed. In this case, Kansas and Oz were the ecosystems.

At the state tournament April 2 in Biddeford, the top three finishers in each problem’s division were chosen to go on to Iowa May 25–28, where more than 800 teams will compete. Other schools invited to send teams include Holy Cross in South Portland, Baxter Academy in Portland, and Freeport Middle School.

“All 14 kids are going to compete against schools from all over the world,” Sheehan said.

The teams are raising $25,000 for the trip through a number of ways, including bake sales, spaghetti dinners, a bottle drive and a GoFundMe page.

Student Daniel Niles explained that the vehicle was made mostly out of wood that his grandfather provided from a landfill. He said the team used a hand drill as the power source with old bicycle gears.

Niles said the vehicle was difficult to build and took about a month. Sheehan said the students had been working together once a week since November.

“We weren’t allowed to have any outside assistance,” Niles said.

“We have to do all the stuff ourselves,” added fifth-grader Alyson Mina.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Lyseth fifth-grade student Daniel Niles demonstrates the vehicle he and his teammates built for an Odyssey of the Mind competition. The students will be headed to Iowa State University to compete in the world finals.

The Lyseth students’ Odessey of the Mind project was based on “The Wizard of Oz,” and had a recycling theme. In addition to developing a way to move the vehicle, students also had to design a way for the vehicle to pick up items for recycling, as Nathan Milliken demonstrates above.

The student-built vehicle would pick up items for recycling and transport them to different ecosystems, in this case from Kansas to Oz.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.