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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.


Tim and his fellow Odyssey of the Mind teammates, Anjelica, Ian, Rowan, Elizabeth and Sarah brought home a Second Place Trophy and the coveted Renatra Fusca Creativity award for their Mousemobile problem solution at Odyssey World Finals at the University of Maryland this past weekend.

We are so very proud of them and all of their hard work!

Here is a video of their award winning performance (note their 28 mousetrap powered vehicle).

Here are videos of the team receiving their Renatra Fusca award

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We are at Odyssey World Finals. This year, Tim’s team has buddied up with a team from South Korea.

Here is their first meal together — lunch today. Not everyone was here yet from our team.

When the girls arrived, the team set to work using the only air conditioned space in the dorm floor to work on their props.

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We spent the past couple days up in the Burlington area for Tim’s Odyssey of the Mind competition. Since the boys were off Friday we took advantage and headed up in the afternoon to hang out. The team, after months, weeks and long, long hours of work performed their project on Saturday afternoon. Even after being privy to the project in the works since we parents all had hands-on supervisory duties while the team was working, I am still amazed at how it all comes together for the real performance. Makeup, costumes, an incredible vehicle that wowed the judges, a great idea and well worded script – all combined to win the team its First Place award in their age division (high school) and the opportunity to participate in the World Final competition in May. Surprising to the team they were also awarded the overall creativity award for the design, engineering and construction of their vehicle, which was propelled entirely by 28 ordinary mousetraps. The vehicle traveled the distance of about 16 feet and did so with flare and ease. The trophy that they won is almost as tall as some of the team members.


Here is the video of Tim’s Mill River Odyssey of the Mind team’s performance at World Finals that earned them an Honorable Mention. They placed 5th out of about 55 teams. We are proud of them, they did a great job! It was a great way to end a fun week.

Last night was the opening ceremony that kicked off the competion. Lots of kids, noise and lasers as well as everything blinky. Each state or country had their own blinky thing in one form or another – be it necklaces like us or glasses, hats, swords, pom-poms, you name it.

Just like the Olympics there is a parade of teams with the international teams coming into the arena first. This year there are teams from Russia, Japan, Germany, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Mexico and Canada.

There will be 843 teams competing in 5 problem categories. Our team does not compete until Saturday morning. There are off practicing now.

This year Vermont had seats in the front row. Literally our seats were the first row of the first section. Way better than our nosebleed seating from last year. The boys were thrilled. The girls from the team marched in the parade so they were literally on the floor. Doesn’t get much better than that. Here is a picture of the boys waiting for the festivities to start. The girls were already lined up outside somewhere.

So here they are–the team with their coach for an eerie picture in front of the Michigan State sign last night. Everyone arrived safely in Michigan. Today it appears that everyone is converging on the university. More and more people are around, crowds of blue and tie dye, purple, neon and all different color and design shirts. Some have come right from Michigan itself, but last night the kids were pin trading with kids from Singapore and DOD kids from Germany. This morning as I walked while they unload their props I saw teams from Mexico.

Tonight is the opening ceremonies – the official kick-off to a week of competition. Our kids compete on Saturday morning so we have time both to practice and to check out the exhibits and the competition.

Things have been crazy. In addition to work and the other mom-erly duties the Odyssey parents have been working on the final leg of our fundraising. We are having a MayDay Dessert Party and Silent Auction at WES this Saturday. The previous weeks have been canvassing for donations of items to auction and now, it is a matter of cataloging them, making signs and advertising. Baking will come later in the week. If you live in the area and don’t have any other way of celebrating MayDay, you should come and check out all our hard, hard work. I must admit, that it came in drips and drabs, but the collection is pretty cool – there are Lake Champlain cruise tickets, wine and cheese baskets, theater tickets, attraction tickets and lots of really cool potential Mother’s Day gifts in the mix. All the proceeds will go to help the Odyssey kids get to Michigan at the end of May. If nothing else, the list of desserts we are preparing is pretty darn impressive and should be quite tasty!

Here’s the cast of characters

The performance was funny. It was within the time limits. Their vehicle worked, their idea – unique. They snagged First Place. They are invited to go to World Finals again. This year Worlds are held in East Lansing, Michigan. Let the fundraising begin……

We are headed to youngest son, Tim’s Odyssey of the Mind State competition this afternoon. These kids have worked hard, not as hard as they could have in the eyes of the coach, but pretty hard nonetheless. They have given up winter break to work everyday and these past three weeks, pretty much every day after school and all day on Saturday. They have built, painted and repaired their own props and today’s the day when they see how far all that work got them. It will be interesting to see how they do and how Tim pulls off his performance. Although I have not seen the skit, from what I understand he is the leading character.

Hopefully, I will be able to post the video, win – lose or draw – later tonight.

Tim is headed off to Hinesburg Saturday for the Vermont Odyssey State competition. Fingers crossed, he and his team who have worked super hard on their project will do well.

In the spirit of Odyssey which is proud to call upon dumpster diving for its props and limits the teams to how much they can spend, here is a video released by Ok Go which uses a lot of stuff the band acquired through flea markets and garage sales to put together an awesome Rube Goldberg type machine that goes along with their song. The video, most amazingly was shot with one continuous camera and no editing. The band said that it took about 60 tries to get it right, but wow is it worth the effort. Below the video is a link to an article on Wired’s website which explains how it was done and shows some behind the scenes video clips.

How Ok Go’s Amazing Rube Goldberg Machine was Built

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Here is video footage of Tim’s team’s Odyssey of the Mind float that participated in the Rutland Halloween parade. It was a rainy night, but these kids spent 2 hours in the rain, some of it pouring to participate. All three of my boys wound up helping out. Tim’s the one driving the car (on the float, not the truck pulling it!)

Video courtesy of PEGTV through Tim Vile

Evilwife on the move

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