A new aquarium is about to open, but an attention-starved crab has cut the power, threatening the lives of the new attraction’s inhabitants.
To make matters worse, an electric eel capable of saving the day has just been chopped into pieces at a neighboring sushi restaurant.
Now the sea creatures have only eight minutes to collect the various parts and put the eel back together again.
While that might sound like the plot of the next Pixar movie, it’s actually the premise of a skit seven students from Alfred G. Waters Middle School are riding all the way to the 34th annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Michigan next week.
As competitors in the problem-solving event’s Pet Project Problem, the students were required to design, build and run three vehicles through an obstacle course on their way to collecting and reassembling a pet animal.
And they had to come up with a story that explained the action, which in their case, ends with the eel powering the lights and oxygen for the aquarium
“It was crazy how these kids came up with this amazing story and how creative they were when it came to solving all these problems,” said Robin Combs, a co-coach of Waters Middle School team.
The team, which began meeting last October, earned a first-place finish in their age division at the regional competition in Georgetown on March 1 and a second-place finish at the state-level competition in Smyrna on March 23.
At each event, the team was judged on its ability to solve a “spontaneous” problem on the spot, the creativity of its skit and the uniqueness of its vehicles, among others measures.
“One of their vehicles is a catfish that uses a pendulum for propulsion, while another is a jellyfish that uses helium balloons and, finally, there is a solar-powered penguin, who comes from the sushi shop to help them,” Combs said. “It might sound silly but it’s actually the result of a lot of hard work that these kids put in. They spent months after school and on weekends writing the story and building the vehicles, props and backgrounds.”
To get to the world finals, the team – and their parents – also had to figure out how to pay for their trip.
The Alfred G. Waters team raised some money on their own by selling soft pretzels at Saturday’s Education Fair. The school, its parent-teacher association, the Appoquinimink School District and the Delaware Department of Education also are chipping in to cover a portion of the cost.
“The money we’ve raised so far almost covers room and board,” said Combs, whose daughter Lia is on the Alfred G. Waters team, while her son, Joshua, also will be heading to Michigan as a member of the Charter School of Wilmington team. “We’re still working to cover the cost of travel.”
Page 2 of 2 - In the meantime, the team got one last chance to rehearse on Mother’s Day before their props were shipped to the world competition, along with the materials from other Odyssey of the Mind teams in Delaware.
The Water Middle School team members departed Tuesday for a five-day stay at Michigan State University, where they will compete against 56 other domestic and international teams.
“They are extremely excited and it’s going to be a wonderful experience for them,” Combs said. “They’re the only team from the district that’s going this year and I think the whole school community is rooting for them.”