REGION — After its victory at the regional competition in March at Pocono Mountain West High School, the Preston Area School Odyssey of the Mind team captured a hard-fought second place finish at the state competition Moon Area Middle/High School this month.
Coaches Greg Adams and Donald Burchell said the competition was incredibly close with the Preston team edging out the third place winner by only four points and coming up five points short of firstplace.
The coaches said they were proud of their team's accomplishments and of all the hard work the students put into the project.
Consisting of team members Ethan Hunt, Grace Maxson, Olivia Novak, Darcy Banicky, Alaina Neu, Sophia Schaffer and Audra Stinavage, Preston was reprising its solution to the Ready, Set, Balsa, Build problem.
“Their build technique improved over time and with more experience,” said Adams, noting the students had overhauled much of their build's design in between the regional and state competitions.
Having received a slight penalty at regionals for an overweight build and noting the structural weaknesses which occurred when the build finally failed, the team was able to enter the state competition with a structure that was both lighter and stronger than the one they had previously.
“Keeping an eye on the details helped solve problems really well,” said Burchell.
With the corrections made, the team was able to construct a platform which held roughly 100 pounds more than their previous build.
In total, their structure held over 800 pounds at the state competition. This was the most weight out of any other team in their division. Preston's build even held 124 more pounds than did the structure from first place team, Owen J. Roberts Middle School.
In addition to their structure's physical improvements, Adams noted the team's score for the spontaneous problem solving question improved as well.
While also fixing their build, the team reworked its theatrical skit as well, altering the bit's order and some of its props.
Even with all the groundbreaking improvements the team made to their previous competition, one of the more memorable aspects of their performance at the state competition was a joke they played on the parents and coaches.
According to Adams and Burchell, the team had constructed a replica of their build in secret. While carrying the “build” out to the judging area, team member Grace Maxson made a show of tripping and breaking the prop.
Adams said the air was sucked out of the room for the tense moment Maxson played up the prank before she hopped to her feet with a jovial “April Fools,” and left to get the team's real build.
They were the only team to attempt such a feat, said Adams, believing it likely left a strong impression with the judges.
With the state competition finished, Adams and Burchell say they are looking into getting things ready for next year's competitions.
The first thing they'll be working on is devising how they wish to select next year's team and setting up tryouts for it. Adams and Burchell explained that they'll have a few holes to fill as three eighth-grade team members will graduate this spring.
“This has been a fun year for Odyssey,” said Burchell. “The team was so good at looking at the details and capitalizing on those details.”