Four Carroll teams advance to the state Odyssey of the Mind competition


Four teams from Carroll County schools have advanced to the state Odyssey of the Mind competition after placing in a regional contest Saturday in Hagerstown.

The international program for gifted and talented youths has the students work in teams to solve complex problems, usually by building elaborate contraptions or structures.

They began working in December, after school and on weekends, to prepare for the annual regional competitions that are held each March.

On Saturday, four Carroll teams placed in first through third places. Three other Carroll teams also competed.

The state contest will be held April 24 at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

One team from West Middle School placed first and another from the school placed third. This was the first year West Middle School participated. However, the teams were not made up of neophytes, said coach Martin Parlette.

Several students on those teams competed when they were students at Sandymount Elementary School and Freedom Elementary School. Mr. Parlette previously was a coach at Freedom.

Sandymount, which has had successful teams in the past, did not have one this year because of the disruption of students and teachers moving from temporary quarters back to the renovated school last November, said Ruth Schneehagen, Western Maryland regional director and a teacher at Freedom Elementary.

The West Middle team that won was made up of Kevin Cornell, Dustin Holland, Nick Holland, Jonathan Mills, Matt Omby, Dave Shaffner and Scott Fairley.

Their "problem" consisted of building a prehistoric set with a dinosaur that moved in specific ways, as well as their own "create-asaurus," limited only by their imaginations.

The other West Middle team had to build a structure from balsa wood that would hold 25-pound weights. That team consisted of Adam Fisher, Jason Fitzgerald, Kevin Green, Jeffrey Mills, Matthew Parlette, Joe Robitaille and Jeremy Tippett.

One of Sykesville Middle School's two teams placed third in the "Pit Stop" problem. That team was required to build a vehicle powered by a jack, capable of going in forward and reverse, and of "turning into something awesome," said coach Lynne Knutson.

Members of the team were her children, Keith and Kelly Knutson, and Micah Reese, Allan Stevens, Mark Groff, Amanda Cavallo and Kate Blatchford.

Their vehicle turned into a "sea-dog," and they used an underwater motif for their presentation.

Participation in Odyssey of the Mind requires volunteer coaches, usually parents, and a few hundred dollars, usually raised by a Parent Teacher Association. Sykesville Middle School's two teams were sponsored by the Freedom District Optimist Club.

One of Freedom Elementary's three teams placed second with its dinosaur set. The students on that team were Tim Chambers, Ryan Duncan, Joey Fiorani, Chris Leahy, Keith Parker, Chris Parlette and J.D. Sivert.

Freedom was the first school in Carroll County to start an Odyssey of the Mind team in 1984, said Ms. Schneehagen, who coached that first team.

"I keep my thumb in it," she said.

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