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It was not unexpected that the Monument Academy “Odyssey of the Mind” teams placed second and third at the state competition, respectively, April 12 in Erie. But what was a bit of a surprise was that two Prairie Winds Elementary School teams finished second in their respective problem/divisions and will join its District 38 brethren at next month’s World Finals in Ames, Iowa. “The Prairie Winds team is brand new to Odyssey,” said Allison Catalano, Odyssey of the Mind Building Coordinator at Prairie Winds. “They have never competed before but they took home the second place trophy in both tournaments (regional and state), and the Renatra Fusca Award in the regional tournament. This award is the highest honor bestowed by the Odyssey of the Mind organization and it is given for exceptional creativity.” The Prairie Winds teams won for their very complicated vehicle design. They are all sixth graders, but they are competing against seventh and eighth graders because they are considered middle schoolers. “The Prairie Winds principal and all the sixth grade teachers are extremely proud of the team and vowed to support us as much as possible in our quest to get to Worlds,” Catalano said. “They have been our biggest cheerleaders.” Monument Academy’s fifth grade team moves onto World’s. The event will take place May 28-31. More than 800 teams from around the world will compete in the 35th Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. The competition emphasizes creativity and teamwork and has grown into the largest international creative problem-solving competition worldwide. For more information please visit http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/wf2014/. Only three members of the Monument Academy team will be going to Worlds, and neither of the coaches is going. The school does not allow any fundraising, so these team members will be working hard to try to raise the money they need to get to Iowa. Catalano will be stepping in to coach their team along with one of the other two moms. None of the team members have ever competed in Odyssey before, and they took first place in the Spontaneous competition in both of the tournaments. This is a huge accomplishment, according to Catalano, since the Spontaneous competition is notoriously difficult. The teams have to solve a complicated problem in a limited time (typically less than eight minutes) that they have never seen before. It could involve building a structure or completing some other task that requires a high level of creativity and team work. Many teams from all over the world work for hours practicing example spontaneous problems and still don’t do well at competitions. “The Odyssey team and parents are so grateful to the Monument Academy administration for their support of this rewarding program,” said Monument Academy co-coach Melissa Smith. “The team was very excited after doing so well at regionals. They worked very hard in the weeks leading up to the state competition to perfect the script and fine-tune their props. “From re-painting the narrating tree to adding an even `twistier’ twist ending, it was wonderful to see their clever, creative minds work together to create an amazing finished product.” Added Kathy King, Monument Academy’s other co-coach. “While I know the team is thrilled with their trophy and medals as well as having the opportunity to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind world competition, a bigger reward is that the team members have learned a lot about problem solving, creativity, and teamwork,” King said. “The team members did especially well in the spontaneous portion of the competition by scoring first place at both the regional and the state competitions. This part of the competition is called “spontaneous” because teams don’t know what they’ll have to do until they enter the competition room. Solving spontaneous problems teaches students to ‘think’ on their feet.”