Lewis Griswold

Porterville school excels at Odyssey of the Mind

Summit Charter Collegiate Academy’s 2015 Odyssey of the Mind team. Front row from left, Lance Murphy, Edgar Acevedo, Frankie Martinez, Jack Taylor. Rear row from left, Oscar Baez, Christopher Scott, Maximo Valdez, Omer the Raccoon (team mascot), teacher Todd “Hoss” McNutt.
Summit Charter Collegiate Academy’s 2015 Odyssey of the Mind team. Front row from left, Lance Murphy, Edgar Acevedo, Frankie Martinez, Jack Taylor. Rear row from left, Oscar Baez, Christopher Scott, Maximo Valdez, Omer the Raccoon (team mascot), teacher Todd “Hoss” McNutt. Special to The Bee

A team of students from Summit Charter Collegiate Academy in Porterville took second place in the Odyssey of the Mind world finals.

Robotics and engineering teacher Todd “Hoss” McNutt has now taken 17 teams to the finals in his 30 years of coaching Odyssey teams.

The international event was held last month at Michigan State University.

McNutt has a passion for inspiring young people, says parent Karen Murphy, whose son Lance was on the team.

“The first time I met Hoss, he told the kids, ‘I will not teach you what to think, but I will teach you how to think,’ ” she says. “He encourages them and lets them run.”

Summit Collegiate was one of 33 teams from high schools in the U.S., China, Poland, Russia, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea competing in the world finals.

Odyssey of the Mind is a problem-solving competition. Teams choose a problem from a list and bring their answer to the competitions.

To advance to the world finals, a team must win or place in both regional and state competitions.

The Porterville team competed in “The Runaway Train” event.

Team members had to design, build and operate a vehicle that travels on tracks and makes stops at different stations without touching the floor. It had to go uphill, downhill, over bumps, stop, restart, go forward and backward, make a sound, display a flag and tow a trailer.

Students built the tracks, the vehicle and the computer that operates it, and produced a YouTube video about their project.

At the finals, the team from 2,400-student Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York, came in first. By contrast, second-place Summit Collegiate, a school for grades 7-12 in Burton School District, has about 500 students.

The Summit team of five juniors (Frankie Martinez, Edgar Acevedo, Maximo Valdez, Christopher Scott) and two freshmen (Jack Taylor, Lance Murphy) put 1,650 hours into the project, McNutt says.

“When kids finally believe they can do it, all of a sudden they realize they have the capability,” McNutt says. “They just have to put in the hours.”

The payoff: a trophy, a medal for each team member and lifelong memories.

JAIL EGGS: The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s jail farm north of Visalia will soon produce its own eggs, saving money on inmate food costs.

The farm already produces beef, hogs and vegetables.

Jail kitchens consume 2,000 eggs per day, at a cost of about $120,000 a year, said farm manager Tom Guinn. An egg-laying operation will save the department an estimated $90,000 a year.

Trailers in which chickens will lay eggs are under construction.

Inmates will collect eggs, clean laying boxes, fill water troughs, feed supplemental nutrition to chickens and other duties.

The farm will start next month with 600 hens and gradually increase to 2,200 hens.

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