They may not have invented a better mousetrap, but the kids at Berwick Academy sure did figure out a good way to use one.

The school’s Odyssey of the Mind team went home Tuesday with a first place in the organization’s World Finals for its design of an Extreme Mousemobile, a mousetrap-fueled vehicle.

“The kids had a great time, they put on a great performance,” said co-coach Michael Donoghue. “They had a few glitches, but they worked their way through it.”

The five worked their way through it well enough to come out on top of 38 other teams in their age division, including squads from China, India and Mexico.

Odyssey of the Mind is an annual competition in which teams of students take on challenges that require teamwork and problem-solving.

A challenge might involve building a vehicle with a unique propulsion system — such as this year’s mousetrap-powered vehicles — putting together a structure with limited materials, coming up with a play, or taking on the classics by writing a new chapter for a literary masterpiece.

In Maine, teams face each other in a state competition and the top two in each division go to the World Finals.

Berwick’s team started working on its vehicle in December. The school’s Odyssey of the Mind team had been dormant for several years, said Emily Borkowski, one of the five members who went to last weekend’s competition in College Park, Md.

She said the team of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders started with seven members but shrank to five after a couple had to drop out because of other commitments. Borkowski said the other members of the team are Abby Donoghue, Zoe Albion, Jess Hebert and Hirsch Agarwal.

Borkowski said the team designed a vehicle in which a mousetrap is tripped, pulling a string that is wound around an axle from a Lego kit.

Even after winning with that vehicle at the state level, Borkowski said, the team kept tinkering, using kite string to reduce friction and altering the exterior.

Jason Wheeler, a member of the state board of Odyssey and one of the judges at the state competition, said the Berwick team’s presentation last weekend at the World Finals was “spectacular — probably the best of any age group I’ve seen.”

He said the fun part of Odyssey, for adults, is watching how the kids come up with solutions.

“They look at it in a way that most adults wouldn’t,” he said. “You get a sense of the type of kid that’s going to be good at this. (The Berwick Academy team members) were those types of kids — they were outgoing, they were smart and they were creative.”

Borkowski said one non-competition highlight for the team was spending time at the World Finals with its “buddy team,” from South Korea.

She said team members put on a talent show for each other, with the Maine kids playing piano and singing and the Koreans singing and dancing.

Twenty-seven Maine teams attended the World Finals. One came home with a special award for courage. That award went to a team from Massabesic High School in Waterboro, which decided to go ahead with its season after a member died in a car crash in November.

The team dedicated the season to Casey Irish, who was 16. His mother, Mary Ann Irish, decided to continue as a co-coach of the team after the tragedy.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]