By Erika Webb
The DeLand City Commission July 7 recognized a group of solution-oriented students.
The Odyssey of the Mind DeLand Breakfast Rotary Team are world champions.
Parents and other family members watched proudly as Commissioner Charles Paiva presented them with a certificate of recognition.
"Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics," according to odysseyofthemind.com.
This year 833 teams and 16 countries were represented at World Finals, said Dana Bailey, one of the parents and team coach.
The six-member team, sponsored by the DeLand Breakfast Rotary, recently traveled to Iowa where they prevailed to become international champions of problem solving through their use of creativity, humor, thrift and resourcefulness.
In short, the team surpassed the general requirements for daily living.
"In Odyssey of the Mind, students learn at a young age skills that will last a lifetime. They work in teams so they learn cooperation and respect for the ideas of others. They evaluate ideas and make decisions on their own, gaining greater self-confidence and increased self-esteem along the way," the website states.
Competitors learn about budgeting and money management, exploring different problem-solving approaches and discover the process can be more important than the end result.
"Team members and coaches sign a contract stating no outside assistance was given to the team. Coaches can guide and teach skills, but the solution to the problem and all props are done solely by the kids," Ms. Bailey said.
Thousands of volunteers from around the world judge the competitions and serve in various positions at the tournaments. Teams are scored for their long-term problem solution, how well they solve a "spontaneous" problem on the spot, and "style" -- the elaboration of their long-term problem solution.
Since the 1970s, Odyssey of the Mind has taught STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts to every participant at all learning levels, according to the website.
The Odyssey of the Mind founder, Rowan University professor Dr. Sam Micklus, taught industrial design classes.
"He challenged his students to create vehicles without wheels, mechanical pie throwers and flotation devices that would take them across a course on a lake. He evaluated them not on the success of their solutions, but on the ingenuity applied and the risk involved in trying something new and different," the website states. "Students had fun. Word spread and the students' activities attracted attention from the local media."
The public interest generated led to the development of a creative problem-solving competition for school children, according to the website.
Schools or community groups buy a membership and form teams of up to seven students. Each team chooses one of five competitive problems to solve. Some problems are technical in nature, while others are artistic or performance-oriented.
DeLand Breakfast Rotary team members are Alan Bailey, Natalie Schwerdfeger, Courtney Gifford, all eighth graders at DeLand Middle School; Matthew Bailey and Luke Branz seventh graders at DeLand Middle School; and eighth grader Nathan Oltorik, who is home schooled.
"The students created an eight minute skit featuring a driver's test that was performed on a vehicle they built. The year of the performance was set in 1909 when model Ts were first coming into production," Ms. Bailey explained. "Our model T was built on an old, discarded lawnmower frame and completed by using scraps from a cabinet remodeling project, wheels from wheelbarrows, cardboard boxes for the hood and fenders, fabric from Goodwill for the canopy, and decorations from a salvage yard."
Its forward propulsion was powered by a nitrogen cylinder and the reverse propulsion was chain driven, powered as the driver pumped the seat up and down, she said.
The team is required to use trash or recycled items for some of their props and they must stay within a $145 budget.
Luke Branz, 13, said the team members worked extremely well together because they took time to get to know each other and to understand each other's likes and dislikes.
The reason they won?
"I think our creativity was a bit higher than the other teams ... but I don't want to be too rude," Luke said.
"There's a huge rule book," Ms. Bailey said. "They would get it out, asking themselves, 'Is that creative or is it common?'"
During the skit, the group got the judges to chuckle with plays on words, riddles and time-filling jokes, such as one "cowboy" Alan Bailey uttered: "Why do cows wear bells? Because their horns don't work."
"They score better when they make the judges laugh," Ms. Bailey said, adding the team members played off of each other very well, using comedic creativity and timing.
"Our team couldn't have advanced to the world competition without our sponsor, DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club, and support from Mainstreet Community Bank, DeLand Middle School PTA, Trophy Factory, Krystal Kleen Car Wash, Woodland Animal Clinic and DuvaSawko as well as the use of Glenn Patterson's warehouse," Ms. Bailey said.
Recently, she was contacted by two members of the Volusia County Council and informed they too would like to recognize the world champs.
"I think the experience for all of us worked really well for future events and it really makes you think creatively," Luke said.