Thursday, February 22, 2007

Odyssey of the Mind

Next week is the regional competition for Odyssey of the Mind, last weekend in March is the state tournament and last week in May is the world tournament (in Michigan). Christopher is taking Katie to regionals and I'll be accompanying her to state. We'll cross the issue of Worlds if it comes to that.
For those not familiar with Odyssey of the Mind:

From the OM website

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Kids apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.

What makes Odyssey different?
Odyssey of the Mind is a competitive program, but it's nothing like your typical sporting event. The competitive element encourages kids to be the best that they can be, but it's a friendly competition. Kids learn from and even cheer on their competitors. Odyssey of the Mind is not a college bowl or a competition about knowledge. It's all about creativity, an often overlooked element in the growth and development of many students. Kids are rewarded more for how they apply their knowledge, skills and talents, and not for coming up with the right answer. In fact, in Odyssey of the Mind problems, there isn't one right answer. Ever.

How do students benefit from participation?
In Odyssey of the Mind, students learn at a young age skills that will last a lifetime. They work in teams so they learn cooperation and respect for the ideas of others. They evaluate ideas and make decisions on their own, gaining greater self-confidence and increased self-esteem along the way. They work within a budget, so they learn to manage their money. They see that there�s often more than one way to solve a problem, and that sometimes the process is more important than the end result.

How does it work?
Schools or community groups purchase a membership and form teams of up to seven students. Each team chooses one of five competitive problems to solve. The problems appeal to a wide range of interests; some are technical in nature, while others are artistic or performance-oriented. Under the guidance of an adult coach, teams work on their solutions throughout the school year and, if they choose, present them in organized competitions in the spring. The "friendly" competitive aspect encourages students to be the best that they can be.

What are the competition levels?
In the U.S., the first level of competition is usually within a region of a state. Teams who place are invited to compete at the state level. These championship teams are then invited to participate in the annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, where they compete with teams from countries around the world, including Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. New countries join the program each year.

How are teams judged in competition?
Thousands of volunteers from around the world judge the competitions and serve in various positions to help make the tournaments a success. Teams are scored for their long-term problem solution, how well they solve a "spontaneous" problem on the spot, and "style" -- the elaboration of their long-term problem solution.

Who runs the Odyssey of the Mind?
Not-for-profit organizations administer the Odyssey of the Mind program in each participating U.S. state and country. Each organization is run by a local Association Director. The organizations are licensed by Creative Competitions, Inc. (CCI), which provides all of the problems and materials necessary to run training sessions and tournaments.

How did Odyssey of the Mind get its start?
Odyssey of the Mind was created by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus, Professor Emeritus at Rowan University in New Jersey. In 1978, 28 New Jersey schools participated in the very first creative problem-solving competition ever. "Dr. Sam" still develops all problems for the program, along with his son, Sammy, President of CCI.

Katie is on a high school team (the division is determined by the age of the oldest member-there are high school seniors on Katie's team so even though she and a couple other members are only in 8th grade they are compete on the high school level). It is sponsored through SA-HERO which is a homeschool resource organization here in San Antonio. The homeschool OM groups take anyone who wants to participate. Most brick and mortar schools only let their gifted and talented students participate in OM. It's a real shame, one doesn't need to be G&T to benefit from and contribute to an OM team.

Katie's team chose to do the long term problem, The Large and Small of It.

The synopses:This problem requires teams to create and present an original performance that integrates team-created Small Pages and Large Versions that change appearance. The method used to make the Large Versions change appearance will simulate the methods used to change the Small Pages. One of these methods must be technical. The Large Versions will serve as stage sets for the performance. During the performance a character will also appear to dramatically change in size. This effect will be created using technical means.

Sounds confusing. Well, it is ;-) In the end Katie's team came up with a story about a mad scientist boy with hamsters. A Rube Goldberg machine triggers some potion to fall onto and to change the hamsters. We end up with three hamsters-Hippie Hamster, Future Hamster and Medieval Hamster(Katie). Their food bowl also changes size. It's funny and wild. The team also decided to use two main mediums for their backgrounds- mosaic and tie-dye. Katie had to make her own costume and it turned out really well. Amazing what a 13 yr old can do with a little Stitch Witchery and three pieces of clothing from the Good Will.

They are ensured a trip to state because there are no other high school teams doing their problem and they send the top three teams to state. Now the competition at state is much tougher. The top team in each age group, in each problem goes to Worlds. If they DO make it to Worlds (very very slim) they will need to raise about $10,000 by mid-May to go. If that happens look for a Paypal button for donations on this page :-)
I'll post pictures and maybe video when I have it and definitely keep y'all posted on how they do.

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