Aaron Turpin could only watch as his team of fourth- and fifth-graders from World Language Academy tried to turn on a waterwheel.
“When they turned the water on for the wheel for the first time in my basement, it flooded,” Turpin said. “It made a mess.”
As the coach of the school’s Odyssey of the Mind team, he wasn’t allowed to intervene when he noticed the water-powered wheel wasn’t going to work.
“Part of the process is learning from mistakes,” Turpin said.
The waterwheel was part of a physical, creative solution for a problem called “The Email Must Go Through.” Students spent the school year devising the technical representation of a message being sent by email. Therefore, they created a wheel representing a computer server.
In May, their project placed third in its division in the Odyssey of the Mind 2013 World Competition on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. The competition pits teams of students in all grades against teams from around the world. Students are asked to solve technical problems, build a representation or structure and perform a skit demonstrating their solution. More than 825 teams competed in this year’s world finals.
The team from World Language Academy finished third in Division 1.
C.W. Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch also placed in a top spot, finishing second in its division. The team also was one of only five to receive gold medals for creativity.
The C.W. Davis team spent the school year building a balsa wood dragon structure that held 865 pounds for their problem “Tumble Wood.”
Kim Carroll, Odyssey of the Mind team coach for Davis, said students learn valuable life skills through the program and are exposed to other people and cultures.
“It’s a life changing experience,” Carroll said. “They learn so much through (Odyssey of the Mind). And they meet people from other areas of the world, the exposure is huge. It changes them and it’s something they’ll carry with them from now on.”
Emily Shewbert, a rising eighth-grader on the team, said the experience has taught her a lot about teamwork.
“We’re all very competitive and have great ideas,” Emily said. “We go through them all and try them out. We have to use the one (idea) that works the best.”
Rising ninth-grader Michaela Stubbs said being on the team and competing against international students provides an opportunity to learn about the world and solve problems in it.
“I think it will help us and serve us very much in our lives and in our work when we get older,” Michaela said. “I think this will help us in the work place or in whatever we choose to do.”