PROBLEM SOLVING -- YES WE CAN!

Odyssey of the Mind teaches children invaluable lessons about creativity, problem solving, and teamwork while instilling in them the knowledge that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.

Imagine how many fascinating or truly indispensable inventions would never have happened if great minds were made to believe that they "canít" do something or that an invention was impossible. Having tools like creative problem-solving abilities and teamwork can do little without the feeling of empowerment that comes from the "yes we can" attitude.

We can now communicate instantly with people from around the world. We can live in buildings that reach previously unimaginable heights. We can travel quickly in airplanes and can even travel in space and to other planets. We learn more everyday about our Earth using NASA satellites that can actually take pictures of our planet from space. New cures to diseases are discovered; prosthetics technology is becoming more advanced, and organ transplants more successful. All of these advances happened because someone had the confidence to explore ideas previously thought to be impossible.

Fortunately, the word "impossible" is not in an Odyssey of the Mind teamís vocabulary. This is the same attitude that has propelled technological advances throughout history.

"We often hear stories from parents that are surprised at just how much their children have accomplished. They start the school year worried that the problems are too difficult, but in the end they are always surprised and proud of their childrenís ideas and blossoming creativity," said Program Director Sam Micklus.

Association Director Allen Ball recently had a pleasant reminder of this very concept with a story from one of his new Tennessee teams. Its school had little to no enrichment programs and even less funding. Only students living below the poverty line or currently failing at least one subject in school were eligible to attend.

Others who thought the students wouldnít be able to handle solving an Odyssey problem discouraged the teacher who brought the program to the school. She pushed the students to continue and they chose to solve As Good as Gold...berg. After much hard work, they ended up placing in the state tournament.

"I cannot tell you what a special day it was for our team. This is an event they will remember for the rest of their lives. For some it was the first time they had won an award or some it was a first to travel, for others it was an amazing selfawareness exercise, but for our whole team it was truly an honor and something we will always cherish. My kids are so inspired by what they saw, felt, and learned today," the teamís coach said.

This is just one example of what happens each year with Odyssey students around the world. They learn that their ideas have value -- especially the "crazy" ones. Ball saw those same qualities in his team, "They were told they could never succeed, that they should just give up so as not to embarrass themselves. Boy did they ever prove those people wrong."

And as we see everyday, those crazy ideas -- and selfconfidence in them -- are what push society to new, even greater heights.