GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Four Grafenwoehr Elementary School students traveled to Iowa State University May 27-30 to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind world finals.

It was their first time GES sent a team to participate in the event.

The Odyssey of the Mind is a worldwide program that develops creative problem solving in students from kindergarten through college.

Students form teams, start with a problem and design props and devices to creatively solve the problem.

Using the props and devices, the teams must demonstrate their solution to a panel of judges.

Students are limited $145 in materials.

Greyson Lerner, a GES student team members, said they participated in the Earth Trek Division I.

They were presented with a problem in which they had to design a vehicle that could travel through four different environments.

"Our team picked thermosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and geosphere," Greyson said. "We designed a vehicle that was hit by an asteroid in the space, crashed in water, travelled on ice, then drove through a volcano."

The GES teams had to go through two competitions prior to reaching the world finals. The Bavarian Regional, where they placed first, was held in February.

They then went to the Department of Defense Dependent Schools European competition in Kaiserslaughtern, where they placed second. The second place finish qualified them for the trip to the Cyclone campus.

"After qualifying for the World Finals students had to raise $7,000 to get to get to Iowa," said Cathy Gladden, GES Gifted Education teacher.

"We received generous support from private organization across the Grafenwoehr Community. Our students, with the Grafenwoehr PTSA (Parent Teacher School Association), sponsored a Walkathon raising $1,600 which covered the rest of the expenses," Gladden added.

The cost asside, the competion builds more than students knowledge base.

"The Odyssey of the Mind builds student confidence levels. Students develop a project to answer the problem. They are asked to present their project to judges and are scored based on the problem criteria," Gladden said.

"I have seen from the program that our students are able to apply the problem solving and presentation skills in other education areas at the school."

"Our strongest area was spontaneity," said team member Catherine McNeill.

"We were placed in a room with a time limit. We had to put items on a small bridge without the bridge breaking or the items falling off."

For Lerner, however, the highlight of the event was outside the room.

"The best part was the pin exchange," he said. "We were given a package of lapel pins from the school and we traded with other teams. The best was the Marion pin since nobody wanted to give it up."