The Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department not only fights fires.
The department is also responsible for helping to kindle the spark of imagination in a crew of gifted young people who just got back from the World competition of Odyssey of the Mind, and proved that when it comes to creativity and smarts, they’re at the top of their game.
The fire department sponsors an OM team made up of area students Avery Pharr, Grady Pharr, Owen Juno, River Sheridan, Sophia Strickland, and Wes Taranto, each one an alumni of previous Odyssey of the Mind teams from the Apalachicola Bay Charter School. They compete in Division III, or the high school bracket.
In what is known as the “Long term” competition, as it is worked on throughout the school year, the team had chosen as their “problem,” the Vehicle one with the theme “Pirates and their Treasure,” whose requirements are that teams must build a rideable pirate “ship” that travels in a set path, battles a sea monster, and recovers a stolen treasure for a pirate queen.
The team decided on online internet pirates, within a digital setting that had to retrieve a digital artist’s artwork (the Queen’s treasure) from the Royal Navy’s website that was being used without permission. Along the way, they defeated a computer virus (the sea monster). Because the problem was very technical, the team had to develop several mechanisms with the use of pulleys, levers, and other simple machines to both propel the ship and complete other aspects of the problem.
The judges thought highly of it.
After earning a second place in April at State at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, the team moved on to World Finals at Michigan State University, which took place the week of the Franklin County High School graduation. The teammates drove the more than 1,000 miles to Michigan, together with coach Dawn Pharr and husband Apalachicola physician Ryan Pharr, while Franklin County High School valedictorian River Sheridan and his mom, coach Candice Sheridan, flew up immediately after graduation.
Out of 31 high school teams competing in that problem category, the team earned sixth place, just a few points behind the top five teams from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In doing so they were the top finisher in the problem among all the Florida teams.
The team did especially well in the other aspect of the competition known as “Spontaneous,” in which team members are assigned a problem the day of competition and are given a short amount of time to come up with a solution. Odyssey of the Minders or OMers then work together in order to make their ideas come to life.