They've boxed up their scenery. Shipped their props. Created a banner of bobble-headed people with photos of their faces.
The only thing left to do for Elmwood Elementary School's Odyssey of the Mind team members is to pack their game faces, brain power and spontaneity as they head to Iowa this week for the 30th World Finals.
The Baltimore County team of five fourth-graders is the only elementary-school group representing Maryland in the international competition, which pushes students to channel their creativity into problem-solving activities. Odyssey of the Mind is open to students from kindergarten through college, and hundreds of teams from throughout the United States and the world participate in the finals, testing their ingenuity and quick thinking.
"It's like the Olympics," said Cara Liggett, an art teacher and head Odyssey coach. "We just try to out-create each other."
During the past few months, the Elmwood team has met regularly to work on a problem called Earth Trek - one of five long-term challenges team members can choose. They designed a remote-control vehicle - a truck with a painted cardboard cab, toy wheels and a foam tray for a bed - to drive through four different environments depicted on large pieces of poster board: a beach, a farm, a jungle and ... Hollywood.
In a skit they designed for the problem, Nick Tsigounis, 10, plays a student who must record his journey, while some of his teammates are characters he meets along the way. Behind the scenes, Michael Onyedum, 9, operates the vehicle, while Jaylan Watson, 10, handles sound effects.
The five also must solve a "spontaneous" problem that could test their verbal or hands-on skills - or both.
Liggett formed the Odyssey club last year because she "saw a need for the really bright and creative kids to have an outlet," she said. The problems also give students lessons in working together and listening to each other, Liggett said.
"I love the message that it's cool to be smart and creative," said Sharon Ward, Elmwood's principal, explaining her support of the program.
Many of the Earth Trek team members said they were drawn to the group because of the rave reviews they heard from friends who had participated.
"They told me that this will be a chance that you will never forget," said Carla Waller, 10, who pulls on a bright blond wig to become Madonna in the Hollywood segment.
She and her peers haven't been disappointed, they said.
"We got to have fun, and we got to make stuff that no one really would make," Nick said.
In March, Earth Trek and the school's primary-division team of first- and second-graders, who took on a challenge that involved creating healthful candy, competed at the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament in Owings Mills in March. Primary teams do not participate in the world finals.
In Iowa, the kids will have a chance to mingle with their counterparts from other schools and countries. They're taking Maryland-themed pins to exchange with others, Liggett said.
"I absolutely love it," said Diane Steimetz, whose grandson, Joseph Wray, is heading to the finals for a second time. "I've seen it carry over to his work in the classroom."
Joseph, 9, has additional incentive to go: He hopes to run into more of the older girls he met last year.
But his competitors better not think for a second that he's distracted from the trip's main objective.
"I've only got one thing to say," he said, grinning. "They're going down."