WNC students to gather at WCU for Odyssey tournament

Some 360 students in kindergarten through 12th grade will be demonstrating their creativity and teamwork Saturday, March 3, as the Schuncke Memorial Odyssey of the Mind Tournament is held at Western Carolina University.

Participants in the western region tournament will include 52 teams of students representing 32 schools and organizations across Western North Carolina. Including students, coaches, parents and other spectators, the tournament is expected to draw a crowd of about 1,200 people to WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

The tournament is named in honor of a Western faculty member, the late George M. Schuncke, who played a major role in the annual student competition on the local and state levels.

Students will compete in three divisions: Division I for students in grades K-5 or younger than 12; Division II for grades 6-8 or ages 12 through 15; and Division III for grades 9-12. Students in grades K-2 also may participate in a non-competitive problem.

Odyssey of the Mind is a national competition that promotes creative thinking, problem-solving skills and teamwork. Western introduced the competition to Western North Carolina schools in 1982 and has hosted state or regional tournaments ever since. The regional tournament is sponsored by the university’s College of Education and Allied Professions, and Office for Rural Education.

Students have been working during the school year on five “long-term” problems: “Tag ‘em,” which requires teams to design, build and run small vehicles; “The Large and Small of It,” “Classics…Around the World in Eight Minutes” and “I’m Only Thinking of You,” which require teams to present performances; and “Out of the Box Balsa,” in which teams will design, build and test a structure made of balsa wood and glue.

The non-competitive problem for students in grades K-2 will be “The Time Capsule,” which will require teams to create and present an original performance.

Competition at WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center and Killian Building will get under way at 8:30 a.m. An awards ceremony will be held about 2:30 p.m. at the Ramsey Center.

First- and second-place winners at the regional tournament will advance to the state Odyssey of the Mind finals, which will be held at Leesville Road Elementary, Leesville Road Middle and Leesville Road High schools in Raleigh on Saturday, March 31. State winners will advance to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, to be held May 23-26 at Michigan State University.

Last year, a western region team from Valley Springs Middle School of Arden advanced to win a first-place award at the World Finals.

Schools and organizations participating in this year’s regional tournament at WCU are Andrews Elementary, Andrews High, Andrews Middle, Apple Valley Middle, Brush Creek Elementary, Carolina Day, Clear Creek Elementary, Cullowhee Valley, Emma Elementary, Enka Middle, Erwin Middle, Estes Elementary, Fairview Elementary (Buncombe), Friends of Asheville/Buncombe Library, Hendersonville Middle, Junaluska Elementary, Laurel Elementary, Madison Middle, Mud Creek Christian, North Buncombe Elementary, North Buncombe High, North Buncombe Middle, Pisgah Elementary, Reynolds Middle, Reynolds High, Roberson High, Rugby Middle, School of Inquiry and Life Sciences, Summit Charter, Valley Springs Middle, Waynesville Middle and Woodfin Elementary.

For more information, contact Barbara Parris, western region tournament director, at (828) 586-5148.