Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chiles Elementary students head to Iowa for global contest of the mind

Chiles Elementary students Maya Patel, front, and Colleen McMahon rehearse for the Odyssey of the Mind competition.


Chiles Elementary students Maya Patel, front, and Colleen McMahon rehearse for the Odyssey of the Mind competition.

TAMPA —The clock was ticking at Lawton Chiles Elementary School.

Seven students were building a bridge out of the flimsiest materials imaginable — a thin strip of construction paper, string, tape, labels, rubber bands and a few paper clips. And they had just five minutes to make it as long as possible.

"Don't make it tight yet," warned fifth-grader Austin Repp, as the bridge took shape.

"Holy cow, that's long," said Mackenzie Elam.

At the final buzzer, their bridge measured 144 inches, and it was none too strong.

But next week, such teamwork will carry them all the way to Iowa to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind world championships, which encourages students to use creativity and teamwork to solve problems.

In their first year as a team, the Chiles fifth-graders have won both regional and state titles. On May 27 they'll go to the University of Iowa to compete against elementary school teams from across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

All of the students are enrolled in the school's gifted program. But their success boils down to hard work, including weekly practices and special sessions over vacations, said teacher Michelle Carmen.

Each team must be prepared to solve on-the-spot challenges that draw on creativity, teamwork and problem-solving skills. And they must present a technical, artistic or performance-oriented project to a panel of judges.

"They had to start with research," said teacher Sharon Cutler. "This takes a phenomenal amount of work."

During a recent visit, the Chiles students were putting the finishing touches on a performance about superstitions — in this case, the belief that it's a bad idea to tear down a spiderweb. They took the bug's point of view.

"Here is our plan of attack," chanted the students, wearing costumes from the insect world. "These humans, we have to get them back."

Then it was on to spontaneous problems. In one, students had two minutes to think of words containing the sound "bi."

Out came a rapid-fire sequence: biography, biceps, lullaby, gigabyte, bison, bystander. They kept on going, bright-eyed but casual, until Cutler called time.

"I was going to say biochemistry," said Eric Chen.

None of the kids are sure how all of this will help them reach their goals. Austin wants to be an astronomer. Kunal Kaushal wants to be an actor.

But all said they like being in a place where it's cool to be clever.

"We all like to think together," said Maya Patel. "We're all as one mind. That's what I like."

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

Chiles Elementary students head to Iowa for global contest of the mind 05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Sunny skies, warm temperatures to rule across Tampa Bay this week


    After periods of heavy rain in some parts of Tampa Bay over the weekend, the region can expect sunny skies, and warm condition to prevail through the workweek.

    [10Weather WTSP]
  2. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?


    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  3. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  4. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again


    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.