Seven students from Leesville Road Elementary School are among the handful of local teams headed to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Iowa next month.
The trip comes after months of hard work solving a problem that required them to build a car big enough for at least one kid to ride in and develop a skit and props around the theme of a driver's test. The students are in third, fourth and fifth grade.
Not only do they need to get the kids and their coaches and various parents to Iowa, but they also have to get the car and props they built as part of their project there too. It's a big job, which they estimate is going to cost more than $10,000. The team is working with parents, the school's PTA and other groups to raise the money to get to Iowa.
But they're also looking for support from the community and emailed me for some help.
"Regardless of how much [they] can raise, the real success has been seeing the remarkable teamwork and creativity exhibited by the team," Coach David Taylor said.
There was a small chance that I could have been in their shoes. I coached my daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team this year. Our team solved the same problem, building a car and developing a skit, and also made it to the state finals at Wingate University near Charlotte where our run ended.
I'm sure the coaches of the Leesville team would agree with me when I write that it was one of the better experiences and, at times, one of the more frustrating experiences of my life.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that requires kids from kindergarten to college to work on creative problems - from creating structures from balsa wood to stories about royal courts to the construction of the car, this year. Coaches provide supervision and some guidance, but the students can receive no outside help.
If wood needs to be cut, the kids saw it. If they want to rig up a battery to make an engine work, they do it on their own. They must come up with the solution to their problem entirely on their own (or get penalized during competition).
I was an OM kid years ago and I was excited when my older daughter wanted to be on a team. While there were more than a handful of trying moments, Odyssey of the Mind teaches kids invaluable lessons about teamwork, problem solving, sportsmanship, creative solutions, self reliance and more. It prepares kids for so many things that lay ahead.
And that brings us back to Leesville's efforts to get to Iowa. It's the first OM team from Leesville to head to the world competition.
The challenge now is to raise funds to get to Iowa and compete against the best of the best, writes Coach Andy Plaice.
"The amount of money required to cover the team’s costs is daunting," he said as they tally up the cost for airfare, lodging and food for the four-day event at the end of May.
The team has set up an Indiegogo site to raise $5,000. At last check, they were up to nearly $1,200. If you're moved to help this team of very hardworking kids get to Iowa, check out the site or send a tax deductible donation to Leesville Road Elementary (with Odyssey of the Mind in the memo line) to 8402 Pride Way, Raleigh, N.C. 27613.
Good luck, Leesville Road!