West Valley school competes in 'Odyssey of the Mind' competition

- For Khalil and Ben, competing is the only thing on the mind.

"One of my teammates is good at sewing, one of my teammates is good at building and putting together PVC pipe, and it's amazing how we can all just come together in our different areas of expertise," Ben Doerksen said.

"We've grown to be like a family almost," said Khalil Cury.

Five years ago, Tartesso Elementary received a grant from GCU to create a group that would compete in the "Odyssey of the Mind."

"We go through the engineering cycle a lot, so it is a big time part of stem," Tammy Doerksen said. "They'll design something and they'll build it and then all of a sudden it doesn't work, so they have to go back to the drawing board."

The year-long competition is where students use stem-based problem-solving skills to write a script, design a set and costumes. Then, perform in front of a panel without any help from an adult.

"The teamwork that goes into that... and I think that's huge today, especially as we're looking into those stem fields of cooperation and working together and taking other people's ideas and mold those... it's not always 'my way,'" Tammy said.

This year, world finals will be in Ames, Iowa, and in just three weeks, the group has to raise $20,000 in order to sent its two teams. Parents and the community have also pitched in to help the teams raise the money.

The title-one school can represent the Phoenix-metro area in competition, and hopefully Ben, Khalil, and their two teams can bring home first place.

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