Calvert High School in Calvert County tied for first place in one of four events at the World Olympics of the Mind, an unusual competition held recently in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Schools from this country and Canada sent five-student teams to compete in each of four events designed to tax even the most creative problem solver.
"We were considered the patsies," said Glen E. Moulton, coach of the Calvert squad and a physics and chemistry teacher at the school. "Nobody expected little old Calvert County to win anything, but we surprised a lot of schools and sent them home empty-handed."
Calvert pulled the upset by tying an Arkansas school for first place in the "Humor from Homer" event, which involved rewriting and producing as comedy a serious scene from the Odyssey.
Calvert's humorous adaptation involved Odysseus' encounter with Circe, an enchantress who turned men to swine, with Circe portrayed as Mae West and Hermes, the winged messenger god, as a drug peddler. Using props, costumes and papier-mache puppets that cost less than $60, the students staged an eight-minute skit that was a trophy winner.
"We found out about the competition late and had only one month to prepare, while other schools had five or six," said Moulton, adding that the school didn't do well in the other three categories.
In those events, students had to build a structure using 18 grams of balsa wood that could withstand several hundred pounds of pressure while being hit by a wrecking ball, design and build a spring-powered car that could be driven through an obstacle course and design a tool that could retrieve minerals from a mine.
In April, Calvert High swept the statewide competition at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland, earning the right to represent the state at the world competition.
The school raised $4,000 in the following three weeks to pay for 21 students, four teachers and four parents to make the Michigan trip. Students on the Homer team were Darryl Wallace, Krispin Thomas, Julie Elliot, Sonja Douglas and Matt O'Neill.