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World champions: Southeast High wins Odyssey of the Mind

BRADENTON — Finals week is a daunting prospect, usually.

Not for Southeast High School’s Laith Charles, Philip DiMaria, Luca Erozer, Ben Robinson, Bryan Robinson and Kate Schaufelberger.

When you’ve just won first place at the Odyssey of the Mind 2009 World Finals, you’re on a roll.

“It’s a very nice high,” said junior Ben Robinson.

The six students, all in Southeast’s international baccalaureate program, collaborated to win the Division III column structure competition in Ames, Iowa, last weekend.

More than 6,500 students from the United States and abroad vied in the creative problem-solving competition in different subjects that constitute Odyssey of the Mind.

The Robinson brothers were the only team members who had reached this level of competition before.

“Being there, seeing the mass of smart kids there, and to hear your name called for first place is unbelievable,” said sophomore Bryan Robinson.

Junior Caroline Burkholder did not make the trip, but helped her team qualify by competing at the regional and state competitions.

Her teammates designed and built a four-sided balsa wood column that was 8 inches high, 21/2 inches wide and supported 1,080 pounds.

They did a skit about their project — a satirical newscast — and participated in spontaneous problem solving.

All within eight minutes.

“Outstanding,” Principal Mike Horne said.

“Only seven points separated us from second place, so we made each point count,” said Charles, a junior.

Equally impressive is the fact the students, their supporters and sponsors raised $8,000 to travel to the big event.

“We’re in debt, but we wanted to do this,” Ben Robinson said. “Having been there, we realize the magnitude of this achievement.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.

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