On January 28, over 90 Wakulla County public school students and others attended a day of practice at Riverprings Middle School for the annual Odyssey of the Mind event in preparation for Regional competition on February 25 in Crestview, Florida.
Participating Wakulla County public schools include Crawfordville Elementary, Medart Elementary, Riversink Elementary, Shadeville Elementary, Riversprings Middle, Wakulla Middle, and Wakulla High School.
Odyssey teams from Wakulla’s COAST Independent Charter School, Leon County’s Godby High School, and Franklin County’s Wewahitchka High School also attended the practice day. The event was organized by Riversprings Middle School Odyssey coach and teacher Laura Hume.
Teams consist of five to seven students. While most schools enter one team due to the extensive work each problem takes to prepare for, Riversprings Middle is entering two teams and Wakulla High is entering three teams.
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 creative solutions to problems that may include technical, mechanical, communication, structural, and performance aspects. In addition, teamwork is a key element to success.
This annual competition of thousands of international 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.
There are five age group divisions: Primary (Kindergarten-Grade 2); Elementary; Middle School; High School; and a college division that awards scholarships.
Teams who qualify at Regionals go on to State competition. Those who qualify at State advance directly to the World Finals as representatives of the United States in international competition against teams from over 25 countries such as China, Japan, Australia and Germany.
The competition involves two problem-solving situations that are judged. One is the “Long-term Problem” that students work on for months, including such scenarios as designing and building a vehicle or a robot for a specified purpose; building a load-bearing structure from balsa wood; or studying historical issues like art to see how they impacted the present. All involve student presentations.
The other area that is judged is called the “Spontaneous Problem” where students are handed a scenario on the day of competition with limited time to come up with a solution to present to the judges. This also lets the judges see how the teams work together to solve a problem. Teamwork and incorporating others’ ideas is rated highly in this segment.
On January 28, students attending the RMS practice day got a chance to work on mock “Spontaneous Problems” in order to test their impromptu problem-solving and teamwork skills.
Volunteers helped with judging, including Wakulla County School Board member JoAnn Daniels, Dr. Andrea Carter, and Shadeville Elementary teacher Amy Seidler.
Just six years ago, Wakulla was introduced to Odyssey of the Mind by one coach fielding one team from Riversink Elementary and it has grown from there. Last year, seven Wakulla County teams advanced to State competition from the eleven teams who participated in Regionals.
This year’s State competition will be at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on April 8. World Finals will be held at the University of Michigan May 24-27.
“Effective problem solving is a major skill we want our students to have plenty of practice with before they graduate,” notes Wakulla County Superintendent Bobby Pearce. “Odyssey of the Mind fills the need for them to be creative, productive, and solution-oriented without having to open a test booklet.”