BIDDEFORD — Five third- and fourth-graders from Coastal Ridge Elementary School in York assembled their stage set before a panel of judges at the Maine Odyssey of the Mind state tournament and got to work.

While four of the students played a couple of rounds of “Wheel of Fortune,” the other carefully stacked weights on a base constructed of balsa wood and glue.

The five were vying to demonstrate their skills at team problem-solving Saturday at the tournament at Biddeford High School, where hundreds of competitors, family friends and volunteers from throughout Maine were gathered.

Annabelle Lockard, 8, a third-grader and unanimously identified by her other team members as their leader, said she gave her team about a 40 percent chance of getting to the final round of competition in Iowa next month.

“There are a bunch of teams,” she explained.

But Annabelle’s teammates, many of them veterans of Maine Odyssey of the Mind competitions, gave themselves a better chance.

“I knew if we worked harder it would work out for us,” said Matthew Young, 10, a fourth-grader, who placed their chances of going on to the finals at 80 to 90 percent.

Alex Glidden, 10, a fourth-grader, said the competition was difficult.

“This specific problem is a lot harder than last year,” said Alex.

Emmett Brenden-Dodson, 10, a fourth-grader, said the team’s balsa wood structure performed much better than expected, bearing 180 pounds before it broke.

“We did pretty well. We asked the judges,” said Emmett.

Hans Bakke, 9, a third-grader, said his previous experience helped him in the competition.

“I have been in OM (Odyssey of the Mind) for three years,” said Hans.

Students in kindergarten through high school from about 70 schools statewide participate in Maine Odyssey of the Mind.

Students receive their problems in the late fall and come up with a solution and presentation – without any adult help – which they demonstrate before a panel of judges. In March about 120 teams were winnowed down by about half at regional tournaments in Brunswick and Sanford.

The top two winners in each of numerous divisions from Saturday’s tournament in Biddeford may compete at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University from May 25 to 28.

Each team has to raise its own money to finance the trip, which costs about $800 to $1,000 per child.

Fern Brown, co-director of Maine Odyssey of the Mind and a teacher at Maine School Administrative District 60 in North Berwick, said all of the 100 judges, 70 helpers, 10 board directors and her co-director, Elise Copeland, are unpaid, except for a T-shirt and lunch during the tournament.

“This is a labor of love and we have a lot of lifers here,” said Brown, who has been involved with Odyssey of the Mind for 25 years.

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