• June 7, 2016 
    Fort Couch students finish third in World Finals

    OM Team A team of Upper St. Clair seventh graders recently finished third among 60 teams at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University. The Fort Couch Middle School students competed in the division two Classics Problem.

    Team members include Victoria Cuba, Brianna Lin, Joseph Markovitz, Max Murtough, Sammie Seewald, Constantine Tripodes and Eric Wang. The students were coached by Laura Murtough, Stacey Seewald and Meridith Markovitz.

    The division two team of seventh graders from Fort Couch Middle School solved the Classics Problem “Aesop Gone Viral.” The team retold the tale of one of Aesop’s fables and then made it and the moral go viral in a time period before continuous electricity was discovered. Their performance included a narrator, an artistic representation of the moral and a character that makes a wrong conclusion about the moral.

    The team’s unique interpretation took place in the 1750s during the American Revolution. Charlie Aesop – a distant relative of the famous Aesop – decides to publish a retold fable in Ben Franklin’s newspaper to inspire the soldiers with the moral, “Whatever you do, use with your might.” On the day that the story is published, Rain falls (portrayed by three animated rain girls), reads and absorbs the moral, and evaporates thereby delivering the message to Lightning and Wind in the sky. Wind then whispers the same message to the soldiers on the ground. In a clever twist, Benjamin Franklin mishears the moral as a call to use his kite (instead of might) and re-enacts one of the most famous discoveries in American history when Lightning strikes.

    “The judges commented on their ‘great blend of science and history’ as well as their use of humor,” Laura Murtough, coach and Odyssey of the Mind program co-coordinator, said.

    OM Team In total, more than 800 teams from around the world participated in the World Finals – including another team of Fort Couch Middle School students. The team, coached by Rachel Lowden and Beatrice Conte, includes Vivek Babu, Christina Conte, Jacob Conte, Yash Jajoo, Gracie Lowden, Maggie Lowden and Isabella Putorti.

    This division two team solved the vehicle problem, "No-Cycle Recyle.” Team members built, rode on and drove a recycling vehicle that traveled without pedaling for propulsion. The vehicle picked up and repurposed discarded items, then delivered them to places to be re-used. Along the way, the vehicle made an unplanned stop to perform a random act of kindness.

    “Their clever and humorous performance was inspired by the Wizard of Oz,” Ms. Lowden said.

    In their story, Dorothy, a budding young photographer, stumbles upon her famous friends – Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion – during a photojournalism assignment for National Geographic. Each character discards an item before being transported to a new location by a pesky, but musical tornado. In their new location, Dorothy presents her friends with a repurposed item that solves their problems.

    “The team scored high marks for their creative use of materials by using National Geographic magazines for all their set and costume pieces!” Ms. Lowden said.

    Both Fort Couch teams earned the opportunity to compete in the World Finals by earning top marks at the Pennsylvania State Odyssey of the Mind Tournament in April and the Western Pennsylvania Regional Odyssey of the Mind competition in March.

    Upper St. Clair's Odyssey of the Mind program is running a summer Ingenuity Camp for students in grades one through seven from June 27-July 1. For more information or to register, visit www.uscootm.com.

    According to its website, “Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state and world level. Thousands of teams from throughout the United States and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.”