By Suzanne Schmidt
The seven kids on the Thomas E. Weightman Middle School Odyssey of the Mind Food Court team were excited when they found out they are going to the World Finals in Michigan.
The Weightman Middle School and two Wesley Chapel Elementary students’ uncanny ability to turn everything into a pun or joke helped them place second out of 19 teams at the statewide Odyssey of the Mind competition at the University of Central Florida in Orlando April 10. It is the first time Weightman has had a team go to the world competition, which will be May 26 to 29 at Michigan State University.
The Wesley Chapel team also won the Ranatra Fusca award, which is the highest honor any team can get from Odyssey. Dylan Passero, 12, said he was very proud of his team’s accomplishment.
“They only give out 11 awards for all 235 teams,” Passero said. “It is the highest honor a team can obtain.”
Odyssey of the Mind is an international education program that provides problem-solving opportunities for kids from kindergarten through college. Team members creatively solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to putting on plays. Teams can solve problems in one of four categories including car, structure, theatrical, classics and technical.
The Weightman team chose to solve the theatrical problem. Freda Abercrombie, Gulf Coast regional director, said the team was able to reference all the Odyssey problems in their play.
“In the theatrical problem, teams are scored heavily on their performance and humor,” Abercrombie said. “This team’s strength was that almost every line is some sort of pun or joke.”
Passero said he loves the humor in the play.
“The main point is for one food item to accuse another of being unhealthy,” Passero said. “Cereal accused milk of being a serial killer. Then a jury made up of five food items had to answer if cereal was correct in this claim.”
Tyler Maister, 13, said he likes the competition because it allows him to be creative.
“It is a way to siphon off my creativity,” Maister said. “It is great for the people who are not good at sports to have that team feeling.”
Marci Williams, team coach, said the seven kids have come together to form a great team.
“In the beginning, it was hard because they were new to each other and they didn’t know each other,” Williams said. “They have become very comfortable with each other. They communicate with each like they are brothers and sisters.”
McKenna Williams, 10, is normally a pretty quiet girl but she said the competition brings out the best in her.
“I am not embarrassed when I get up there,” McKenna said. “I like it when I am on stage.”
The team also has to do a spontaneous problem that is either verbal, verbal hands-on or hands-on according to Victoria Reidy. Maister said he likes the verbal hands-on category.
“In that category, we get a picture or an object that we have to make a creative comment about,” Maister said. “Say it is a picture of two animals, we can comment about what the photographer said to the animals or what they said to each other.”
Tyler Williams, 11, said he enjoys the hands-on spontaneous.
“You get an object like a paper clip and a pencil,” Williams said. “You have to get the pencil as high off the floor as you can. Or you might have a problem where you are given so many rug pieces and everyone has to get across the floor together. It is a great way to learn to work together.”
Baylee Carr, 12, said she is really excited to go to the world finals.
“I enjoy it because we get to meet a lot of new people,” Carr said. “I like that we get to learn to build stuff and I like acting and solving problems.”
Angela Cingoranelli, 10, said she has learned valuable lessons.
“I have made a few good friends,” Cingoranelli said. “I learned there is always more than one way to solve a problem.”
Marci Williams said she was very impressed with the team’s performance.
“They all have strengths that add to it,” Williams said. “The boys are good at spontaneous. Victoria helps with props and Baylee is mostly in the background but she has a big part. It took all seven kids to win. I would like to thank Wesley Chapel Elementary School for letting us use the space to practice and for our props.”
Other schools in Pasco will also be attending the world finals including Wesley Chapel Elementary School, Double Branch Elementary School, Mittye P. Locke Elementary School, Wiregrass Ranch High School, River Ridge High School and Mitchell High School. Schools will be raising money to send their teams to the competition. For more information contact each school individually.
The cost to send a team to world finals is about $8,000. Weightman Middle School is raising money by having a Weightman Idol contest May 4 and selling popcorn at the school’s field day May 11. For more information, call Weightman Middle School at (813) 794-0200.
For more information about Odyssey, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com.