A Little Team That Could

A Little Team That Could

Forest Edge Elementary team goes to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.


Photo contributed

The Red Hot Chili Puddings won the state tournament on Saturday, April 26.

In March an intrepid group of third and fifth graders from a Reston elementary school entered a regional competition and pulled off a surprise win against students twice their age. On April 26, they doubled down at the state tournament. The Red Hot Chili Puddings are a team of rookies led by rookie coaches. Their pursuit, Odyssey of the Mind, is a world-wide creative problem-solving competition involving students of all ages. It pits bright and creative kids against each other in both spontaneous and long-term tests of intellect and creativity. This little team with the long odds won first place in their division at the regional competition — and then some. They competed in the one event that has an objective measure than can be compared across all divisions from kindergarten through college. The Stackable Structure problem involves building a feather-light (18 gram) balsa wood tower that holds a stack of heavy iron weights. The team's tower held 219 pounds at the tournament, besting all other elementary schools in the region. To everyone's surprise, the team's structure also supported more weight than those of all the middle and high schools at the event. Since the region is shared by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, this means that Forest Edge Elementary School fielded a team of 8 and 10-year-olds that out-engineered the number-one ranked high school in the nation. Virginia is highly competitive in the U.S. region of Odyssey of the Mind, so the Red Hot Chili Puddings entered the state tournament on Saturday, April 26 with the simple expectation that they would experience their very first competition of any kind outside their hometown. The children knew that Thomas Jefferson High School would be there and they were sure that the nation's top school would do everything in its power to prevent a repeat of the upset at regionals. But the little team that could marched to a first place finish with 412 pounds of iron perched atop their wisp of balsa. And once again, this improbable weight topped that of Thomas Jefferson High School's. Now this team is off to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in late May. And perhaps for the first time ever, the first-ranked Chinese teams are looking over their shoulders not at their college peers, but a bouncy bunch of 8 and 10-year-olds from Reston.