By Amy Schechter

Waiting in the wings to perform, Randall Middle School’s Odyssey of the Mind team may have appeared to outsiders like underdogs. Comprised completely of 6th graders, they were going up against older, more seasoned teams of 7th and 8th graders from across the district. But, John Annett, Blake Bole, Bradley Carlson, Findlay Hartman, Kaylee Matteis, Kayla Purifoy, and Leela Walbolt knew they were ready to take it all.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition available to students in kindergarten through college. Teams of five to seven students work cooperatively over several months to develop solutions to one of six long-term problems on a limited budget. They also prepare to answer a spontaneous problem where they are given a challenge the day of the competition that involves a possible combination of verbal and hands-on responses.

The students came to the District meet with a lot more experience than one would have thought. The team worked together the previous year at the elementary level. For this competition, they chose a project called “Autobot.” They had to create and code programming for a robot that would perform four different human tasks. They also took home first place for their musical skit involving a “Ghostbuster’s” theme.

Furthermore, the students took first place for their spontaneous response question, a testament to teamwork that has been built across almost two years of working together. Two parents coach the team on a volunteer basis, Erin Hartman and Kellie Bole. Bole said, “The premise behind Odyssey of the Mind is that you can teach creativity and I one hundred percent agree creativity can be acquired in watching these kids grow and develop.”

Randall’s Odyssey of the Mind team will go on to compete at the state level on April 8 at the University of Central Florida. If they place high enough there, they can be invited to the world finals May 24-27 at Michigan State University. For more information on Odyssey of the Mind and how you can get involved as a volunteer, visit http://floridaodysseyofthemind.org.