The Portland Press Herald
Odyssey event will reward 'out of the box' approaches
By Ann S. Kim
More than 700 students will converge in Sanford today for the annual Odyssey of the Mind state tournament.
Competition will begin at 8 a.m. at the Sanford High School/Junior High School campus on Route 109.
Closing ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Gym. Qualifying teams will be eligible to compete in the World Finals at Michigan State University in May.
The educational program aims to encourage creative problem-solving.
Teams can compete in five categories, ranging from building a vehicle to original performances on a given theme to building balsa wood structures.
Erin Beth Goldman is returning to Odyssey of the Mind as a coach and coordinator for Portland's Reiche Community School.
She competed when she was 11 years old.
Her teams are both nervous and excited about showing off projects they have worked on for months.
It has been more than 20 years, but Goldman's own experience of putting on a skit about Cro-Magnons remains vivid.
"We were terrible, and it is still one of the best memories I have from grade school," she said. "Even though we made a whole bunch of mistakes and even though we didn't rank very well, we had so much fun putting it together, seeing what works, what didn't work and why it didn't work."
Today's tournament will have a special visitor: Samuel Micklus, the industrial design professor who founded Odyssey of the Mind. Micklus will help Maine Adventures in Creativity - the sponsor of Odyssey in Maine - celebrate its 10th anniversary.
The competition grew out of a problem that Micklus posed to his students at Glassboro State College in New Jersey more than three decades ago.
He challenged students to build vehicles that could cross a campus pond. Their ability to do that - as well as the ingenuity of their approach - counted in his evaluation.
In a similar fashion, today's teams will be judged on factors including style.
"Which is just what you think it is," said Barbara Querry, a board member for Maine Adventures in Creativity.
"The flair, the thinking out of the box or how creative a team is. That is across the board."
This year, the vehicle/mechanical category, called "Nature Trail'R," requires each team to design and build a human-powered vehicle that can overcome obstacles on a camping trip.
The technical device category, "Return to the Gift of Flight," involves creating aircraft that can complete flight plans. The balsa wood competition, "Column Structure," looks at which team's creation involving columns can support the most weight.
Two performance problems are "Discovered Treasures," which centers around archeological finds, and "Food Court," humorous performances about jury trials of foods that are accused of being unhealthful.
Teams of kindergartners through second-graders can participate in those categories but aren't scored.
Those teams have their own category, which this year will involve performances based on a "Surprise Party" theme.
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