Seven fifth-grade boys from Morrisville Elementary recently celebrated a third-place finish at the World Finals competition for Odyssey of the Mind. A few of the boys, their complicated props and parent Cathy Downs drove to Ames, Iowa, for the May 23-26 competition, and the rest of the boys and parents met them there. Morrisville’s team demonstrated its Ooh-motional Vehicle, and the boys placed third among 52 teams tackling Problem One from around the world.
Back in October, a few of the boys who had participated in past Odyssey of the Mind competitions assembled a team of seven. They met once a week, adhering to five pages of specifications about how they could and could not create their Ooh-motional Vehicle. By January, they were meeting twice a week after school, and by February and March, they met almost every day.
Kavita Nanda was one of their coaches, the mother of twins Anthony and Krishan Guzzo. She and fellow coach Bethanne Downhower were not allowed to help the team in any way. But Nanda shared the students’ excitement after placing third.
Q: How do you practice and prepare for Odyssey of the Mind?
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About two-thirds of the team’s score comes from the long-term solution they create to solve the problem. But about one-third of the score comes from a spontaneous response. The students are given a problem to solve at the competition. We practice all kinds of different problems. The (Academically Gifted) teacher and Odyssey of the Mind coordinator gave the teams problems to solve on the spot.
Q: What was the spontaneous problem for Worlds?
We, as coaches, were not allowed to be there. But the students told us that they were given various-sized balls and had to make devices to launch these balls onto targets. They received points for hitting the targets, teamwork and how creative the devices were. They had five to eight minutes to talk, plan and build the solution.
Q: What was your team’s Ooh-motional Vehicle?
The team had to design and build a vehicle that encountered obstacles and displayed human emotions at various points throughout the course. Our team wrote a skit about a boy who has a dream where he is going back in time to get information for a history test. He travels to the 1800s in Europe, and the vehicle they chose was a horse. The explorer in the boy’s dream takes the horse on a treasure hunt.
To build the vehicle, the boys took apart a jog stroller and used a person inside to move the wheels from inside like a wheelchair. They also used a folding tricycle for some of the parts. The vehicle had to be able to move backwards and forwards.
Q: What was one of the best parts of competing at the world level?
We hosted a “buddy team” from Singapore. There were seven 11- to 12-year-old boys, and our boys ended up wrestling on the floor with them like they had known each other forever.
We had T-shirts made with both Morrisville Elementary and Anglo-Chinese School printed on them. We got their email and Facebook addresses so we can keep in touch.