"This contest requires a lot of imagination," said Dorry Hummer, who teaches art and gifted students at Garmisch. "It surprises me what they come up with."
The number of students participating in Odyssey of the Mind (OotM), a creative problem solving competition, has doubled each of the three years it has been offered in Stillwater. So it shouldn't be that surprising that after sending one team to World Finals last year, Stillwater has had six teams qualify for this year's OotM World Finals competition in Baltimore.
"These kids are diverse in the way they think. They've learned to communicate with each other and drive on their individual talents and strengths," Mason said.
"I have not seen many of them walk on the floor lately, they are still on cloud nine," said Seufert. "They are very excited about going."
Seufert said the experience will last a lifetime, as will skills learned.
The letter from Sam Micklus, the international director of Odyssey of the Mind, congratulated Pengilly and the Odyssey of the Mind students for an outstanding job with a prosthetic device that they made for 9-year-old Matt Lane recently.
"They are to be commended for their outstanding spirit and creativity," Pengilly read.
Coach Mary Schmalzl said the team's hard work paid off at the competition this year.
"This group has also been together for a long time and most of them competed together in elementary school ... they know each other's strengths," she said.
"These kids have been working together since October," said coach Darci White of this year's team.
"They spent time brainstorming ways to solve their problem, creating a script, and creating all of their scenery, props and costumes. They did not get any help from anyone."
"It just really provides something to my students that isn't there in the classroom: To work together to solve a problem," Eppley said. "They have the ownership. They will succeed or fail based on what they do."
Through the program the students learn a variety of skills, including team building, cooperation, creativity, open-mindedness and problem solving.
"It's neat to see them bounce off each other with ideas. ... Then they come up with how to do it together," coach Lynn Gaddy said.
If it sounds a bit complicated, it's supposed to be. "Odyssey of the Mind" puts to the test students' abilities to be creative, use tools, think outside the box, come up with new ideas, spend wisely and rely on each other as a team.
We began the year with individuals and finished with team members who are already looking forward to next year's problems. The life-skills they have learned along the way will be part of their own personal odyssey forever.
"It's really fun to see what the students come up with," Fessenden said. "It's all very clever."
A team from Collin County Homeschoolers Sharing Adventures in Learning (SAIL) took first place at the state finals of the Odyssey of the Mind competition in Houston on April 5.
Lothian said Greenville has participated in the program for at least 25 years and has seen some competitors go on to study engineering and other complicated professions. Some of those students' children now are competing as another generation.
"This is something they'll use the rest of their lives," she said.
The Marlowe team is a dedicated group, said teacher Tisha Newton, who coaches the team. It's not unusual for the students to arrive at school early and stay late to work with her.
"They are living, eating and breathing this," Newton said. "Obviously, it paid off for them."
"For a lot of these kids, it's the first time being part of a team," she said. "You're part of something and you can't just quit when you have other people depending on you."
When asked about the team, Coach Lynda Hohn said that she was very proud of them and all their hard work and is thrilled that they have earned the chance to compete at World's.
"The problem solving was the question of how the dinosaurs died," Netherly said. "The students replied; they died laughing."
"They did it on their own& no help from me," Peabody said. "It's exciting, because it's an academic achievement."
"If anything, it's a great preparation tool for middle school. It forces kids to work together in a group," Swanson says. "When they go to middle school, they will know that everybody can contribute something to a group. There are a lot of adults who don't know that."
"It's just great to see these kids really think outside of the box. I think sometimes they're stifled a little bit in school. Odyssey really lets these kids be creative and explore things they've never explored before."
"It is a great honor. We all worked so hard," said 10-year-old Anika Dhar, the senior member of the Austin Creek team. "It will be awesome to actually be in a world competition."
There are the Olympics, the World Cup and the only slightly lesser known Odyssey of the Mind World Competition. Winners of these competitions can take home the ultimate prize in their field, and this year, a team of Pennridge seventh graders is hoping that, with a little help from the district's school board, they will win it all.
Lianne Koerner spoke on how the competition broadened her sense of who she really can be in later years to come.
"Academically yes, it helps us to go beyond the bigger and better in the classroom, but personally it's a lot about teamwork, responsibility and broadening horizons," said Koerner.
Team earns spot in Odyssey of the Mind world competition
Balsa wood, glue and golf balls combined to test the ingenuity, creativity and cooperative skills of seven Johnson School students during a recent competition.
Kim Fonock, Cafferata Odyssey of the Mind coordinator, said the point of the program is to challenge students to think on their feet.
"They share creativity and solve problems all by themselves," she said.
"It's just a fabulous program," said parent Amy Driscoll. "These kids had to solve a complex problem all on their own and be creative at the same time. That's a lesson we all could use."
The girls said the experience has taught them a lot about teamwork and creativity.
"While we were working on scripts, the others would build props," said Emma.
"We voted on a lot of things because there were so many good ideas," said Suzy.
"We did a really good job," Sally Sittnick said of her team made up of fellow ninth-graders.
The girls giggled as they remembered going dumpster diving, looking for materials for the background and costumes.
"We'd drive up and down looking for things to use," said Ayla. "We found some pipe that worked perfectly for us."
"They really have worked really hard. It takes a lot. We don't always have teams from Yuma representing Arizona so it is a big deal to have that," Venditelli said.
"We spent about two months working on it," team member Noah Harrell said. "It was fun and challenging, but more fun. I learned that teamwork is best for this type of competition.".
"We screamed, and I cried when I found out we were going (to world finals)," said Kaylyn Humphrey, a Magee eighth-grader.
"Odyssey of the Mind is such a unique program. The problems they solve, the skits they perform and all the props and costumes they use come from the students themselves," Adams said.
"The whole purpose of this is thinking outside the box, and teamwork," Howard said.
"It took a lot to do this, a lot of time and a lot of delegating," said Grade 12 student Jarret Vankessel.
Weeks of preparation, fine-tuning their projects, and plenty of frayed nerves paid off for 13 local teams as they participated in the Odyssey of the Mind regional competition in Groesbeck March 8.
"Odyssey of the Mind is an excellent opportunity for our students to put into practice what Canterbury has taught them throughout their years -- to think outside of the box," Baker said.
It's very exciting to see how this program just keeps growing. The dedication that the students -- as well as the teachers and parents -- put into this is amazing.
And the nature of the competition helps creative students who do not always excel in school, she said.
"It's not just for the good students," she said. "It has something for everybody."
Event at BU draws 4,000 for state finals
Coming up with creative solutions was the order of the day as 4,000 competitors, coaches and spectators from across the state descended on Binghamton University for the event that encourages students to let their imaginations roam way outside the box.
4,000: That was about how many students, coaches and parents that were on Binghamton University's campus today for the Odyssey of the Mind Finals. And that number was much easier to figure out than some of the problems these kids were dealing with.
The students had to do a lot of experimenting and engineering to figure out a solution.They rose to the occasion.
"It's not about winning," said Loveland resident John Mandley, a Front Range Community College academic counselor who with his wife, Shannon Pippin-Mandley, coach the Truscott team. "It's about being proud of what you've done, regardless of what the judges say about your performance."
Three local Odyssey of the Mind teams have driven and laughed their way to the world finals.
The region 11 Odyssey of the Mind competition was designed to promote creative thinking by challenging teams to solve a variety of problems, along the way helping promote teamwork and a sense of both self respect and respect for others.
She pointed out that team building and critical thinking are the biggest and most important lessons students take out from the competition.
"I think that's important for kids," she said. "When they get out in the world they have to work with other people. They have to work through the processes of creative thinking for it."
"I learned that when it's time to play, you can play, but you need to stop and work hard sometimes," said Tommy Littlejohn, 10.
"This is an exciting opportunity that encourages creativity and cooperation in the students," Onofry said. "It's a great thing to see people actually getting excited about academics."
"It's all pretty cool because I've never come in first before," said Herzog, who had been involved in Odyssey in elementary and middle school. "I was surprised we won first, but it's still exciting."
One local "Omer," as they are called, has gone on to Hollywood stardom. Deanne Bell began her science career at Port Malabar Elementary, obtained a degree in engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and now hosts her own science show "Smash Lab" every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on The Discovery Channel. She was on hand to help Saturday and sign autographs.
"They learn a lot about teamwork," Maxanne Rees said. "When you have six of the brightest children it's hard for them at first. Then they compromise and work together."
The Odyssey competition "allows all kids to open up their imaginations" and pushes them to work as a team, said Elizabeth Waite, who has been involved for 14 years in coaching teams from Donnelly Elementary School in the Susquehanna Valley Central School District.
A high school squad from Forest Hills Central made costumes out of candy wrappers and paint swatches for a skit about a packrat who went on a diet and munched on the wires.
"We use as much free and recycled stuff as we can," said Drew Hawkins, 17.
The Newport Odyssey of the Mind teams pulled off a rare occurrence Saturday at regional competition at Pocahontas as the three teams finished in first place in their problem and divisions.
"What you consider a good response is average in this program," Hopkins said. "That's a sign of the creativity and the problem-solving spirit of OotM."
Second, they received the "Omer's" Award. This special award is given to coaches, team members, parents or others who serve as Odyssey of the Mind examples or role models by their actions or words. They demonstrate the true spirit of Odyssey of the Mind.
Somehow, even at 8 o'clock that night, after being up and running for 15 hours with more work to do before bed, Alfonso's voice was still strong and upbeat. "They all had a great time," said Alfonso, the Energizer bunny of Super Moms. "They're real proud of their accomplishments and so am I."
"This is an exciting time for the students, as well as the parents of these students," Ragland said. "Competing with other students in the area will also be exciting for the students."
"I like it, the kids seem to enjoy themselves," said Heidi Kormos, a first-time volunteer. "It opens their mind to creative things, and it helps them stay out of the cold."
The students are able to incorporate their own skills and interests which can include singing, playing instruments, skating, gymnastics or other skills.
Part drama festival, part science fair, the Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students ranging from kindergarten through college age. Students apply their creativity to solving problems that range from building mechanical devices or delicate structures that bear unlikely amounts of weight, to presenting their own interpretation of scientific principles or literary classics in the form of skits and other imaginative performances.
"It prepares them going forward as far as being a leader, being a thinker," added Michele Cooper, a team coach and parent. "It shows them different levels of diversity."
All participants have to create their projects without adult assistance, so the girls had to sew their own costumes and design their own set. They also learned teamwork skills.
"Sometimes people don't like ideas, and you have to figure out a way everyone will like them," said Danielle Yeager, 10.
Tyrus Johnson, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, was a part of that team.
"It was exciting, one of the best experiences I've ever had," he said. The most stressful part of the competition is when the weights were being added.