GORHAM – Creative thinking, out-of-the-box ideas and innovation were celebrated and rewarded when about 170 teams from all across Maine descended on the Wells schools Saturday to take part in the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

There were some new winners, as well as returning champions among the teams chosen to go on to the World Finals, including three teams from the Gorham school system.

A team from Gorham Middle School took the top spot in the You Make the Call, Division II challenge and two teams from Village Elementary School took second place in two different challenges – You Make the Call, Division I and Odyssey Angels, Division I.

In all, five teams from Gorham took part in the Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

The You Make the Call challenge actually involved two separate parts. One was creating a balsa wood structure that did not weigh more than the limit set in the competition rules. The other challenge was to create a math function device of some sort that takes in numbers and outputs information.

The winning team from Gorham Middle School built what it called “the number computing machine,” according to student Isaac Martell. The machine was used to construct a government building that could withstand the pressure of weights put on it to crush it.

Gorham Middle School has competed at the Odyssey of the Mind state tournament for the past three years, said assistant team coach Rich Roussel.

This year, he said, the students on the You Make the Call team “did a great job and really worked well together. They had a true creative ethos going.”

The You Make the Call team from Village Elementary is also going to the World Finals, being held at Iowa State University, May 23-26.

That team, coached by Amy Wu and Jeff Bolduc, created a scenario where the math function machine was part of Santa’s workshop.

“The enthusiasm from all the kids was infectious, which made the long day and months of planning (the tournament) all worth it,” said Fern Brown, co-director of the state’s Odyssey of the Mind program.

“There were many comments about how well behaved the teams were and how creative the solutions all were this year,” she added. “We had very good feedback from coaches about the tournament and it met all our hopes for a wonderful showcase for talented Maine kids.”

The judges, all volunteers, attended a full day of training earlier this month. Their job was to fully understand each challenge the teams are asked to solve, Brown said. The judges are also trained to evaluate the different components of each challenge.

In Odyssey of the Mind, the participating students, who range in age from kindergarten to high school, must do everything themselves. Each team has a coach, who can advise the teams, but otherwise no outside assistance is allowed.

By participating in the program, the “kids learn intellectual curiosity and interpersonal and collaborative skills, along with communication, problem-solving, critical and creative thinking and self-direction skills,” said Brown.

This six-member team from Village Elementary School in Gorham competed in the You Make the Call, Division I challenge at the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament in Wells. From left are Ryan Goudreau, Jade Wu, Maddy Sweatt, Julie Cooper, Laura Bolduc and Kiera Emerson. (Staff photo by Kate Irish Collins)

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