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Osborne Elementary Odyssey of the Mind team ready to take on world

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
A third-grade Odyssey of the Mind team based at Osborne Elementary School will travel to the world competition in May. Pictured, from left, are: Isabella Bock, Ilijana Hasak, Taylor Retzlaff, Stella Christensen, Jhon-Fredy Krebs, Owen Petronick and Lilly Capezutto.
A third-grade Odyssey of the Mind team based at Osborne Elementary School will travel to the world competition in May. Pictured, from left, are: Isabella Bock, Ilijana Hasak, Taylor Retzlaff, Stella Christensen, Jhon-Fredy Krebs, Owen Petronick and Lilly Capezutto. Submitted Submitted

A group of third-grade students who qualified to compete in an Odyssey of the Mind world competition next month cited several reasons for their success.

Osborne Elementary School students Jhon-Fredy Krebs and Owen Petronick said “cooperation and collaboration” were important to the team, which is the youngest and only the third one in the Quaker Valley School District to qualify for the world tournament.

Fellow Osborne third-grader Lilly Capezzuto said another key aspect was believing “any problem can be solved if you put your mind to it.”

They will travel with team members Stella Christensen, Ilijana Hasak, and Taylor Retzlaff, all Osborne students, and Isabella Bock, who attends Montessori Children's Community in Sewickley, to the world tournament May 22 to 25 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The Osborne Elementary-based team qualified for the world competition after winning first places in its division in the Western Pennsylvania Regional Tournament in March at Moon High School and in the state competition April 13 at Pocono Mountain East High School in Swiftwater, Pa.

“It's quite unusual for an all-third-grade team to win the regionals as they did,” said Jeff Christensen, a parent who coaches the team along with parent Michael Bock.

It also was the only team of the nine Quaker Valley teams that participated in regionals to qualify to compete in states this year.

The team chose “Pet Project,” one of five Odyssey of the Mind challenges offered to competitors this year.

Students designed, built and ran three vehicles through obstacles to deliver various “animal parts” to be reassembled into a pet animal that then performed a trick.

At both the regional tournament and state finals, the team not only performed each vehicle perfectly three times, but received the highest total score in the state in its division.

One of its vehicles is propelled through the use of a spring, string, axel, rod and rat trap.

A slingshot and barrel is used for a second, and a third features a deflating balloon and a small pipe.

Team members had eight minutes to complete the project, but at the state finals, they were finished in five.

To go along with a story they wrote and then performed in costumes while competing, they chose a pet bat as the animal.

The bat's trick completed the story involving a sorcerer, played by Owen, who asks the mad scientist, played by Ilijana, to “bat sit” for him while he vacations in the underworld. The mad scientist thinks she's supposed to sit on the bat, which then explodes. She then must retrieve the parts and reassemble the bat before the sorcerer returns home.

Once the bat is reassembled, a slingshot mechanism shoots out a rubber ball that hits the mad scientist, punishing him for sitting on the bat.

Along with the sorcerer and mad scientist costumes, members also created garments related to their methods of vehicle propulsion.

Coach Christensen said it's challenging for third-grade students to design and build working vehicles.

“They tried many different prototypes before they found ideas that worked. They learned to ask themselves, ‘Did it work?' ‘Why? Why not?' ‘If not, what could be done differently?'”

Owen said thinking up the ideas for the vehicles was the hardest part.

“The one that was the most tried and failed was the balloon, but we finally figured it out,” he said.

Christensen said OM students must come up with solutions on their own, without ideas or help of any kind from parents.

“They're not just learning how to solve a problem, they're learning how to problem solve.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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