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Teams need both sides of brain for competition

All they needed to re-create a scene from ancient Egypt was a little help from the 1980s hit Eye of the Tiger.

Members of one of the classics teams from Thomas E. Weightman Middle School, who will compete in today's Odyssey of the Mind regional tournament, used their own version of the Rocky III theme song to open their performance at a recent practice.

"Qa'a's the Pharaoh working the slaves," they sang to the tune of Eye. "Got a stick, got authority. Duh, duh, dun!"

As they sang, the "slaves" pretended to build a Not-So-Small-Mart, their ancient Egyptian version of Wal-Mart.

The team is one of more than 140 from Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties scheduled to compete at today'stournament, which is being held at River Ridge middle and high schools in New Port Richey.

Those who place in today's competition may go on to represent the Gulf Coast region at the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament in April and possibly the Odyssey of the Mind 2006 World Finals in Ames, Iowa, in May.

The students who place first, second and third in regionals receive a medal, and those in fourth and fifth places get a ribbon, Emerald Coast regional director Shannon Flynn said.

The competing teams will include students from kindergarten through high school. Each team can have no more than seven students and will be judged on creativity, risk taking and how it solved its individual "problem."

Problems include creating a concept for a parade and inventing a device that can move items. Each is designed to teach students creative problem solving methods - while having fun.

"It's just hands on for kids and hands off for adults," said Odyssey's Gulf Coast regional director, Freda Abercrombie. "As adults, we're not allowed to criticize or comment."

Students in kindergarten through college can participate - although the "Star Trek" teams (students in kindergarten through second grade) are not judged at competitions.

The teams from Weightman will be.

Members from the classics team have been preparing for about four months to perfect their ancient Egypt performance. Requirements say it must include either a pharaoh, king or queen and ancient Egyptian works of art and artifacts created by the team.

"It teaches me to think and solve creatively," said team member Randal Ackett, 11.

His mother, Jennifer Ackett, one of the team coaches, said, "I've seen the creativity in the projects he had to do."

For example, the performance features slaves working on the Not-So-Small-Mart to meet one of the competition's requirements, which say the performance must include an explanation about ancient Egyptian construction as well as a plot twist.

And the team did it all, including costumes and set, under the $125 limit.

That alone required some creativity.

For example, the team dyed T-shirts beige and painted them so the male slaves looked "ripped," Ackett said.

"Not that we aren't or anything," said team member and "slave" Levi Davidson, 13.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is mspicuzza@spttmes.com.

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