It’s not everyday that you open the newspaper and see a picture of your child smiling back at you. At least I don’t think it happens for many people. But it happened for us this morning. Tim and his Odyssey teammates were front page news in the Rutland Herald with an article lauding their achievement at World Finals this last weekend.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does. Just when you think your heart can’t swell any bigger with pride, it does. Magical….just plain old magical.

Here’s the entire article from the Rutland Herald:


By Cristina Kumka
STAFF WRITER – Published: June 3, 2011

 

A group of local high school students recently got a one-up on their careers — with the help of 28 mousetraps.

The Mill River Union High School Odyssey of the Mind clinched second place in the world for conquering Odyssey’s “Extreme Mousemobile” vehicle engineering challenge.

The 33rd annual global competition forced students to work together as a team. The goal was to harness each student’s creative thinking skills in order to solve divergent, long- and short-term problems in fun and creative ways. The results were then presented before a panel of judges.

This year, the Mill River team figured out how to re-engineer the mousetrap’s metal loop, which is designed to catch a mouse, into a device that propelled a “Pi-Rat” ship through one challenge and over the next.

While many engineers have tried making mousetrap-powered cars, the team’s vehicle earned such a high ranking because of its creativity — using the energy of multiple mousetraps and the leverage and shape offered by bicycle wheels to move a ship long and short distances. In addition to movement, the ship also could drop an anchor and raise a flag, among other tasks, according to team leaders.

Through trial and error, the team of youngsters used bike wheels as big pulleys and made the most of a long string by figuring out to use the full amount of force provided by the mousetrap flap, according to Tim Vile, the team’s coach and engineer.

The spring power from the mousetraps powered the wheels and moved the vehicle, Vile said.

The finished ship was revised by the team four times prior to the world competition and it looked completely different than any other mousetrap-powered vehicle, Vile said.

Mill River’s winning Odyssey team is composed of ninth-grader Rowan Dubin-Masuck, ninth-grader Sarah Osmer, eighth-grader Ian Dansereau, eighth-grader Tim Heffernan, eighth-grader Anjelica Carroll, and eighth-grader Elizabeth Bushey.

The team was coached by Vile and parent Nan Dubin.

The accomplishment not only resulted in two awards for the team, but also drew recognition from the University of Vermont’s School of Engineering.

Educators there say the team is comprised of the exact group of students the college is looking for.

Jeff Frolik of UVM’s School of Engineering said America’s workforce needs students like them now.

“To solve a problem, you are going to need more than one point of view,” Frolik said.

Frolik said today’s mechanical engineering field is morphing into something more consumer-friendly and students in his school need to learn how to communicate and present the highly technical information they have mastered to the average audience.

Math is at the core of engineering, but today, communication also needs to be a critical factor, Frolik said.

Graduates of UVM’s School of Engineering have gone on to work in the industries of aerospace, manufacturing, composites and carbon fiber. Graduates also have had the opportunity to work in renewable energy or electrical engineering for state-sponsored projects like Smart Grid installation.

Dawn Densmore, a director of outreach and public relations for UVM, said the Odyssey competition caters to the best and brightest – exactly what the college wants in its engineering program.

“We are interested in hands-on application and students learning creatively,” she said. “We want those students at UVM. Businesses are clamoring for applicable knowledge – how do physics and math apply? … Not just book knowledge, but a tangible way to solve a problem.”

Companies seeking to hire graduates want to know that students understand why they are learning what they are learning, Densmore said.

“The thing that doesn’t work in a given project is what you remember the most. And it’s critical in our world to work in a team because nothing is done without one,” she said.

A team from Stowe Playhouse also earned second place for its “Full Circle” theatrical performance about how different parts of our brains store and recollect memories.

cristina.kumka@rutlandherald.com

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