Four Wakulla Schools Compete in State Odyssey of the Mind
International Problem-Solving Organization Spans Elementary through College
April 16, 2015
Four Wakulla County schools’ Odyssey of the Mind teams placed at regional competition in March and went on to compete at the State level. Crawfordville Elementary, Riversink Elementary, Riversprings Middle, and Wakulla High teams advanced to the State competition held on April 11, 2015 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Odyssey of the Mind is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1978 by Industrial Design professor Dr. Sam Micklus to encourage students to “think outside the box” in finding solutions to real-world problems they may encounter in the workforce and in their lives.
Although no Wakulla teams advanced to the World Finals as representatives of the United States in international competition, they competed extremely well and took home ideas from teams that did advance.
Stated Superintendent Robert Pearce, “They represented Wakulla well and I am proud of the teams and coaches who put so much effort into this creative problem-solving competition.”
Crawfordville Elementary team members included Clara Alford, Abbi Hatfield, Lily Stolk, Penny Corbet, Luke Harden, Tres Panzarino, and Micah Van Syckle. Coaches are teachers Renee Kelly, Holly Harden, and Kirsten Brazier, all supported by CES Principal Angie Walker.
Of the five categories to choose from in each year’s competition, Crawfordville selected the Vehicle category problem of “Runaway Train”. The CES team was required to build non-ac powered self-propelled cars that had to maneuver through a course and complete obstacles such as jumping a gap in the track, moving forward and backward, traveling over large speed bumps, and towing an object, all while narrating the performance of the tasks with a storyline.
Some of the judges’ comments about the CES Team included, “creative use of recycled materials”, “humorous puns”, and “very creative theme”.
Riversink Elementary’s team consisted of Lilli Bull, Gabe Dutton, Amayiah Henry, Emma Lloyd, Chase Morgan, Legion Taylor, and Ben Vaughn. Coaches are teachers Megan Crombie, Katie Hart, and Stan Ward, supported by RES Principal Jackie High.
They chose the category of Structure, with this year’s problem called “Losing Your Marbles”. Students had to design and build a structure made of balsa wood that was 8 inches tall and weighed no more than 18 grams. It had to hold 5 marbles that were released one at a time as weights were added to the structure.
The RES team had set a goal for their structure to be able to hold at least 100 pounds and it held 239 pounds at State competition.
Riversprings Middle School teachers Laura Hume and assistant Rhonda Shields, supported by Principal Michele Yeomans, coached RMS Team A consisting of Analise Bracci, Farrah Bratcher, Gracie Bruce, Abigail Gray, and Jessica Starling.
They chose the middle school division category of the Vehicle problem “Runaway Train”. Students designed a vehicle that would run on a track off the floor and travel to and from four stations. Taking the task literally, Team A built an aerial tram system with an animal circus theme.
One of the RMS team’s strengths was featured in the Spontaneous Problem Solving portion of the event. The five girls worked well together and had a near-perfect score on that segment which ranked them among the top of the teams in their division at State competition.
Wakulla High School’s team consisted of Jake Hutto, Tyler Martin, Oakley Ward, Scott Edge, Shawna Gray, Nolan Terry, and Daniel Sloan. Their coach is teacher Nicholas Weaver, supported by WHS Principal Mike Barwick.
WHS chose the Structure category with the high school version of “Lose Your Marbles”. They designed, built, and tested their structure made of balsa wood and glue which had to balance and support as much weight as possible. The structure held five marbles that were released during weight placement as a result of a team-created device removing a piece of the structure.
As the marbles were released one by one, the WHS team based their performance on the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, with the dropping marbles each symbolizing an intellectual leaving the workforce in a dystopian society.
WHS team member Daniel Sloan stated, “Odyssey of the Mind has opened my eyes to the importance of teamwork.”
Noted student Shawna Gray from WHS, “Odyssey allows you to be creative and think outside the box.”
All the teams worked on solutions to their Long-Term Problem for months after school under the supervision of their coaches. Many of the problems incorporated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, with NASA usually sponsoring one of the five problems each year.
Additionally, each team had to solve a Spontaneous Problem that was given to them at the time of the competition. Teamwork, listening skills, and creative problem-solving all were added to their final score.
This annual competition of thousands of teams has limitations on money that can be spent on materials and restricts coaches and parents from solving the problems for their students. All brainstorming, building, writing, sewing, and painting must be done by student teams of no more than seven members.
The teams enjoyed the State competition and were already brainstorming about improvements for next year as they headed back home to Wakulla.