WELLS — The seven members of Freeport’s Mast Landing School team bounded away from their presentation at the Odyssey of the Mind state tournament Saturday convinced they had given it their all.

“They said we did an amazing job,” said Lucy Wing, 11.

Wing and her teammates said the hardest part of the day was trying not to laugh.

The Freeport middle schoolers were among 1,200 students across the state from elementary grades to college, who descended on the Wells elementary, middle and high schools to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind state tournament.

The event also drew hundreds of family members, volunteers and judges. The tournament is one step in an international problem solving competition that pits teams of students according to ages against each other to come up with the most creative solutions to one of six problems. The two winners advance to the world finals in Iowa this summer.

The students compete in teams of up to seven who meet throughout the year to come up with solutions that they present in eight minutes before panels of judges.

This year’s tournament included challenges such as designing, building and operating a vehicle that travels a course and changes to display different human emotions, building a structure using only balsa wood and glue that will balance and support as much weight as possible, and creating and presenting an original performance based on Shakespeare’s famous “To be or not to be” line.

The competition was created in 1978 and first arrived in Maine in 1982. Participation has grown ever since, said Fern Brown, co-director of Maine Adventures in Creativity, which operates the Maine program.

Brown said the number of students involved surged by 40 percent this year. “We have no idea why,” she said.

But Brown said she suspects part of the growth may be due to the entry of the first generation of participants’ own children into Maine schools. She said participants tend to remain lifelong fans of the program and want their own children to enjoy it as much as they did.

“Odyssey fulfills a need for creative kids and it is affordable,” Brown said.

Organized chaos reigned at the Wells tournament, where groups of students hauled colorful props through school parking lots to their assigned presentation spaces.

The Mast Landing School team met two or three times a week since October to create a performance about a team of scientists on an expedition to uncover the cause of mysterious events.

On Saturday, they scurried on stage to assemble their set before the panel of judges in a skit featuring dragonflies, puppets, undulating waves and a machine they dubbed the magnatron 2000S. Their coach, Melanie Sachs, watched from the sidelines.

“I do this because of the kids. When else can you spend an afternoon with a bunch of creative, engaged children?” she said.

The team, which also included Margaret Perrotta, 10, Anna Sawicki, 11, Nick Eastman, 11, Grace LaMagna, 10, Peter Sachs, 11, and Ashley Arruda, 11, said all the hard work was worth it and they would do it again.

“The joy is in the journey,” they shouted in unison.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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