Brainy Philadelphia-area students won 13 of 30 finalist awards Saturday at the state Odyssey of the Mind championships in Berwick. The winners go to the world finals next month at Michigan State University.

The competition, founded by design scholars at what's now Rowan University in 1970s, has spread across the Americas, Europe, and east and central Asia. It drew 150 teams from across Pennsylvania.

A team of mostly eighth graders from Masterman Middle School in Philadelphia won for the second year in a row, said civic activist Brett Mandel, who coached the group with Chris Powers, a teacher at Powel School in West Philadelphia.

Team members built a string of self-powered contraptions to cross slopes, gaps, and other obstacles in the "Runaway Train" challenge.

Returning to the world finals, they will try to top last year's third-place finish.

Students from Center City-based Independence Charter School won in the third- to fifth-grade category in a challenge titled "Experiencing Technical Difficulties." This featured rubber-band-powered devices - a crane; a trampoline; a glockenspiel; even a whoopee cushion, which students said honored a 1791 Ben Franklin essay about flatulence, Mandel said.

Other area winners include: the Center for Parenting Education in Rydal; two teams from St. Basil the Great CYO in Kimberton; and North Penn High School in Lansdale.

Also, Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting; Abington Senior High School; East Vincent Elementary School in Spring City; Avon Grove Charter School in West Grove; Owen J. Roberts Middle School and Owen J. Roberts High School in Pottstown; and New Hope-Solebury Middle School.

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