Over the Memorial Day weekend, a group of five Newsome High School students competed at the Odyssey of the Mind world championship, ending up in eighth place. The championship would typically take place at Iowa State University or Michigan State University, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, students participated virtually this year.
Odyssey of the Mind is a club that centers on creative problem-solving and includes students from elementary grades to college. The Newsome team is made up of five local students, Blake Bole, Kaylee Matteis, Findlay Hartman, Kayla Purifoy and Bradley Carlson.
Erin Hartman, one of the two Newsome chapters’ coaches, explained that their team practiced one to two times a week from October to February. The regional competition then takes place, and those who score first and second place move on to states, then to the ultimate level: the world championship.
The two parts of a competition are Long-Term Problem and Spontaneous. For Long-Term Problem, the Newsome participants spent October to February building three different vehicles that were self-propelled in different ways and had to travel a specific distance simultaneously.
These vehicles carried elements to a ‘center’ where, Hartman explained, “they have to be used to create a reaction that will ‘save the world’ using baking soda.” The display had to last eight minutes and revolved around the theme of Willy Wonka.
Spontaneous was more stress-inducing as the students did not know what the question was until five to eight minutes before, only knowing that it would ask them either to construct something or respond verbally.
This year’s world championship was altered by COVID-19, but members were able to participate by attending a Zoom meeting where they were given their spontaneous questions to respond to in addition to taping their original eight-minute performances and sending them to judges.
As well as offering new experiences, the club has allowed members to develop very important life skills.
“I have seen all five kids grow in many ways,” said Hartman about the team members.
She zeroed in on their development in teamwork, problem-solving skills and resourcefulness, stating that the team even had a budget of $145 on their project and found ways to recycle materials in order to meet it.
The current team of five ninth grade students has set new records each year since fifth grade and Hartman communicated their hope to continue this trend, but not before they celebrate their eighth place spot by going to an amusement park of the students’ choice (once it’s safe).
Visit www.odysseyofthemind.com for more information on the club.