April 19, 2006 - Five Odyssey of the Mind teams from Northwest and Catalina Foothills schools placed high enough at the state finals to advance to the World Finals in Ames, Iowa May 24 to 27.

Odyssey of the Mind is a problem-solving competition that rewards participants not just for the results their solutions yield but also for the creativity they showed in the process.

Students from kindergarten through high school had to first triumph in northern or southern Arizona regional tournaments to get a place at the state tournament held on April 1 in Tempe.

From the Amphitheater School District, Painted Sky Elementary School in Oro Vally had two teams qualify for the World Finals, and Cross Middle School in Tucson also had a qualifying team.

From the Catalina Foothills School District, Manzanita Elementary and Sunrise Drive Elementary both had teams qualify for the World Finals.

Manzanita Elementary and Sunrise Drive Elementary both had first-place finishes. Manzanita took first place in the Geometry Structure event by building a balsa wood tower under 15 grams that withstood the most weight - 120 pounds. Sunrise Drive Elementary took first place in The Jungle Bloke theatrical skit event.

"The great thing about Odyssey of the Mind is that it is very much about the students doing everything. We're not allowed to give them any ideas," said Mark McCourt, coach of the Manzanita Elementary team. "Our primary motivation is to have a good time."

Painted Sky Elementary took second place in The Jungle Bloke and also will field a team at the World Finals in The Great Parade event that took second place after two other teams tied for first.

For The Great Parade, fourth and fifth grade students welded two bicycles together that would be steered by one student and pedaled by another and would be able to follow a pre-determined parade route.

"The kids learn about teamwork and consensus building, and they learn how to use their creativity to solve a problem within a set spending budget," said Painted Sky coach Rob Jewett, adding that the budget for The Great Parade was between $120 and $140.

Cross Middle School will advance to the World Finals after a second place finish in the Ancient Egypt skit competition.

Students at Painted Sky are now busy trying to raise the $10,000 they will need to attend the World Finals at Iowa State University, Jewett said.

The team from Manzanita will not be competing at the World Finals because the event coincides with the high school graduation of many of the team members' older siblings, McCourt said.

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