TOP: The Liberal High School Odyssey of the Mind team participates in the state competition in Manhattan. Courtesy photo ABOVE: Sophomore Evan Sumner shows one of the items of memorabilia she received at the 2010 Worlds Competition L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Two Odyssey of the Mind teams from USD No. 480 have qualified for this year’s Worlds Competition at the University of Maryland, and while part of the trip will be paid for by the local school district, students from both West Middle School and Liberal High School are working to raise the remainder of funds for the journey.
LHS students have several done several fundraisers, and one is currently in progress as youth are auctioning off 10-inch lime almond cheesecakes to get money for the Odyssey competition.
“We have five of these cheesecakes, and the top five bids will get those cheesecakes,” said Carmen Sumner, mother of sophomore Evan Sumner and the coordinator of the fundraiser. “So far, we only have one bid. We’d love to have some more people bid. They can do that by going to our Facebook page or by calling me.”
The Facebook page is at LHS Odyssey of the Mind, and bidders can also call 629-0521. Bids for the cheesecakes can be made through Tuesday. Carmen said the cheesecake auction is the latest of a group of fundraising events for Odyssey students.
“We just had a garage sale last weekend in 50-degree weather, but we had a great turnout for that,” she said. “We’re also doing a Web-based promotion. It’s called ‘Flower Power.’ That’s also on our Facebook page.”
Carmen said through Flower Power, people can purchase live plants and bulbs through a Web site and have those delivered directly to them.
“They can just click on that Web site, order what they would like to order,” she said. “It’s associated with our group, so they will then send out a check at the end of the ordering period.”
Carmen said between the LHS and WMS teams, a total of $7,330 needs to be raised for the trip to Maryland. She said one anonymous contributor purchased a cheesecake for the price of $500.
“We’re really grateful for that,” she said. “We’re also looking for some grants from some local organizations, and we’ve also taken letters to various businesses in town looking for some funds that way. Families will be contributing.”
Carmen said USD 480 is paying for the entry fees and registration for OM, as well as the lodging in Maryland. The money raised from the events will go to expenses incurred along the journey.
“This is for one of the big Redskin buses,” she said. “It’s three days there and three days back. There’s diesel, hotels, food and lodging for those six days.”
Each of the USD 480 teams are essentially raising half the money for the trip.
“In some respects, we’re doing some things together,” Carmen said. “The grants we’re applying for are for both West Middle School and Liberal High School. The West Middle School team has been doing some of their own fundraisers. The kids will also be working Thursday evening, May 12, at Spencer Browne’s. Both teams’ members will be waiting tables and working and helping. They’ll be getting part of the profit for the evening and also any tips that are raised.”
Evan said the project the LHS team performs at competitions is called “As Good as Gold...Berg” and involves taking an everyday item and making it more complicated to use.
“We took a plunger and made a chain reaction so that it moves up and down and unclogs the bathtub,” she said. “There were six girls on the team having to learn how to use power tools for the first time.”
Evan’s team featured six girls, and Carmen said most of the work in OM is done by the students themselves.
“The theory of OM is that the adults don’t do anything,” she said. “They taught the kids how to use tools, but the kids have to actually build using the tools. I was impressed.”
Evan said work on the project went as expected until the team got to Manhattan for the state competition.
“When we got to state, we have a pipe that holds a rock, and it came apart,” she said. “When we taped it back on, it was not the right height. It wouldn’t let our water wheel spin. The judges knew it was supposed to work. We took second, and we get to go, but it was kind of disappointing. It worked every other time.”
Carmen said the problems the LHS team experienced in Manhattan were similar to those of other groups.
“While we were there watching other teams compete, every team had some problems with their contraption,” she said. “These are really crazy intricate chain reactions that just don’t travel well in the bottom of a big red bus. Things tend to break.”
This is Evan’s fourth time competing in the Worlds event, and Carmen said the experience of the competition provides some unique aspects.
“There are kids there from all over the world, and each state and each country has their own pins,” she said. “The kids will all gather around the campus. There’s all this interaction nationally and internationally among the kids as they trade pins and barter pins. It’s lots of fun to watch them do that. Generally, Kansas pins are pretty popular. We’re based on The Wizard of Oz. The world knows The Wizard of Oz, and they love that.”
Evan said having all girls on a team created some problems for others as well.
“The spontaneous judges were confused,” she said.
The spontaneous portion is one of two aspects of the Odyssey competition.
“The Gold...Berg problem is considered the long-term problem,” Carmen said. “They work on it all year long. Spontaneous is something that the coaches and the parents don’t get to observe. The team goes into a secluded room with a group of judges, and they’re given things and asked ‘What can you make out of those?’ They have two minutes to come up with creative things to do with that or describe a story. They get points based on creative thinking. There’s hands on spontaneous.”
Carmen said with Odyssey being such a student led activity, adults have little involvement with the projects.
“Though supervision of blow torches is a good thing,” she said jokingly.
Carmen said those wanting to bid on the cheesecakes can call her or post online.
“I’ll take bids over the phone or on Facebook,” she said. “If they prefer that their bids be anonymous, just call me, and I’ll make sure that the bids are kept track of.”