The whiz kids from the Julia R. Masterman School are setting up a legacy in the state finals for Odyssey of the Mind, a competition that challenges students to use creativity to solve problems.

Most of the students - seven seventh graders and one each from sixth and fifth grade - who won the school's third straight title Saturday are younger siblings of students who won the previous titles, coach Brett Mandel said.

The finals, held in Moon Township, just west of Pittsburgh, included pre-planned skits and a spontaneous exercise.

For the skit, the students built a toy car powered by fans, a pneumatic arm that could grip objects and an electromagnet to demonstrate ways to convince a grandfather to use technology.

Coaches were not allowed in the room for the spontaneous exercise and the students were not allowed to tell their coaches what the problem was, Mandel said. That part of the finals, he added, often sets the winners apart from the other teams.

Mandel calls that part of the finals "the worst 15 minutes of coaching" all year but said he was relieved by how the students left the room Saturday.

"They knew they had nailed this problem" Mandel said.

The students will head to Ames, Iowa in late May for the world finals, where more than 800 teams will compete.

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@ByChrisBrennan