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What an Odyssey: S. Charlotte Middle international champion

South Charlotte Middle School won an international academic competition in Aimes, Iowa, last weekend. It's the second time a Charlotte middle school has won in three years. In the Odyssey of the Mind competition, South Charlotte Middle School beat 61 other schools from the US, Poland, China and many other countries. WFAE's Simone Orendain has more. The competition is all about creative problem solving. Teams had to choose from five topics that included creating a vehicle that travels to many places, designing a shock absorbing structure and coming up with an unpalatable task for Hercules. A team from South Charlotte Middle decided to take on the story of Hercules- known as Heracles in Greek mythology. The phrase Herculean task comes from the 12 seemingly impossible jobs Hercules sweated out in order to become a god. Coach Mary Yodzis says the project took months to complete. "And what we did was the Lost Labor of Heracles. And in mythology Heracles performed 12 labors in hopes of becoming a god. And our problem was to come up with a 13th labor and explain why that one was lost in history," she explains. The seven team members created a skit and built a set complete with costumes and a Poseidon puppet to depict the 13th lost labor- for Hercules to marry an undesirable part-human creature. Yodzis says the idea was to show the relationships between the gods and how they use those relationships to advance their own ambitions. The performance was limited to eight minutes. In addition to creativity, they were judged on teamwork. Yodzis says the end result was to gain knowledge that was applied to solve the problem. She says, "What Odyssey of the Mind does is give these kids freedom to test their ideas and it was really important to me that I let them fail. Some of the ideas didn't work and so we would trash them and start over again until they came up with what they thought was the best idea. And the greatest reward was that the best idea was the best in the world. And I'm so proud of them." Eighth grader Lucy Banny came up with the 13th labor. She says the team was thrilled to win. "We were beyond excited. It seemed so unreal. As soon as we heard them announce our name as first place winners, we all jumped up. I was crying tears of joy. It was insane!," exclaims Banny. Team members each received a medal and brought home a trophy. Superintendent Peter Gorman congratulated the students. "We're pretty pleased that kids are getting opportunities to work with students from all different nations. This is what the world is like they're going into. We're really proud of this group of students," he says. All nine CMS teams that qualified for the world competition, placed in the top 25. Myers Park High placed second in the high school category and Polo Ridge Elementary took third in the elementary competition.