Student competition emphasizes unique skills

    A group of Philadelphia charter school students is competing in the world finals of a unique competition this weekend. It’s not about being a math or spelling whiz, but focuses on problem solving and creativity.

    During one of their training sessions, the Independence Charter School students are building a wobbly device out of paper and straws. Their challenge: use their construction to carry several objects including cans and golf balls across the room without dropping them.

    It turns out to be rather difficult, especially with the heavier golf balls that tip the newly constructed carrier over and bounce onto the ground.

    This is the kind of challenge these students, who are between 9 and 10 years old, will face during the “Odyssey of the Mind.” It’s an annual competition for students of all ages. This team has qualified for the World Finals after claiming top spots in their division during regional and state competitions. In addition to facing random challenges, they will also perform a skit involving mouse mobiles – little vehicles powered by mouse traps.

    Marcie Lichtman-Lentz, the Odyssey of the Mind coordinator at Independence Charter School says the competition teaches and emphasizes important skills.

    “Teamwork is a major piece of it, and to not stop at the first reasonable answer,” said Lichtman-Lentz, “and to respect others’ suggestions and really just having fun being creative and learning.”

    Thousands of students from more than 15 countries will participate in the competition at the University of Maryland.

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