Corkran Team Keeping State Competition In Mind

April 26, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

A team of Corkran Middle School students who took first place at a regional Odyssey of the Mind competition are looking for a repeat performance at the state finals Saturday in Catonsville.

Odyssey of the Mind, an annual competition designed to teach children how to think creatively and solve problems, is open to students from kindergarten through college. Middle school students had to pick from a list of five problems.

Corkran's students chose "The Mail Must Go Through" and designed a working, all-wood mail sorter. Nick Wzientek, 13, said the problem "was probably the coolest one" and the most challenging because of its technical difficulty.

To solve their problem, the three boys and four girls on the team had to design a system that sorts and transports domestic mail, foreign mail, regular packages and two express packages. Two of the team members were eighth-graders and the rest seventh-graders.

The students cannot touch the mail once it is on the conveyor belt that is part of their 5-foot-tall, 10-foot-long, 3-foot-wide sorter.

One student cranks a white handle that sends the packages rolling down a conveyor belt. The bundles of varying sizes then fall into waiting carts. The system is powered by three six-volt batteries.

The girls wrote a series of skits called "The Evolution of Mail" and performed the skits as the mail was being sorted and delivered. One skit portrayed Christopher Columbus as a surfer who finds a message in a bottle that has washed up on the shore. Another skit depicted people receiving their mail through electronic-mail systems on computers.

"Everything you see is their idea. A coach can't say let's do this or this is a better idea. It has to be theirs," said said Sue Tokarcik, whose son, Brian Tokarcik, 12, is a team member.

His father, Larry Tokarcik, is the children's coach. Kathy Wzientek is their assistant coach.

The students started working on their project in September and have been tinkering around with it ever since. Brian Tokarcik, who designed a light sensor to distinguish the white domestic mail envelopes from the black foreign mail ones, said he thought the project was worthwhile because of what he learned about mechanics and electricity.

Kevin Horrigan, 12, said he learned how to weld so that he could put the metal wheels on the wooden carts.

The state competition will be at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville. A win there could take the students to the world finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in May. The Corkran team will compete against other students their age.

The students are judged on the long-term projects they design and on a project they are given at the competitions.

At the regional competition in March, the students had to solve a verbal problem.

"We're going to make it to the world [finals]," said Nick Wzientek.

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