SANFORD – Simon Roussel is just 10 years old, but he knows a thing or two about model car propulsion.

Over the last several months, Roussel and five teammates from Village Elementary School in Gorham built a “mousemobile” — a miniature car propelled by a mousetrap.

They demonstrated their car Saturday at the Odyssey of the Mind state tournament at Sanford High School. Some 800 kids on 125 teams from across the state attended the problem-solving competition.

The students came to present creative solutions to challenges in hopes of advancing to the world finals this summer.

The teams included six or seven kids each and came from towns including Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Sanford, Freeport, Gorham, Fryeburg and Hiram.

Teams competed in divisions based on their grade levels, ranging from kindergarten to high school.

Months ago, the teams chose one of five problems they would try to solve in a creative way. They presented their solutions before judges and parents on Saturday.

The problem the Village Elementary team chose was to design and build a vehicle that uses a mousetrap as its sole source or energy.

Their car was made from the body of a Pinewood Derby car and erector-set wheels. A mousetrap on the car’s roof drove the wheels.

“I got the idea from a video game,” said Simon Roussel of the design. “The mousetrap pulls a string, which turns the axle.”

The team from Portland’s Breakwater School chose a different challenge: to present a short play about a group of tourists and a guide.

Arianna Coan-Prichard, a 10-year-old on the team, said she and her classmates spent months preparing.

“It was hard work and a lot of practice,” she said.

Fern Brown, co-director of the Maine Odyssey of the Mind, said the program gives kids a creative outlet they do not find in the usual school setting.

“It’s to promote creative problem-solving in children,” said Brown. “(This) challenges creative kids to express themselves.”

Brown added that the program “encourages life skills, (such as) working with each other within a time frame and a budget (to) come up with a solution.”

Sarah Bullett, a teacher at Breakwater and coach of its team, said Odyssey of the Mind teaches a variety of skills, including writing, construction, organization and communication.

“It’s not about book smarts, (it’s about) creativity,” she said.

The Odyssey of the Mind world finals will be held at the University of Maryland in late May. Brown said teams from nearly 50 states and from countries overseas will compete.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

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