Seven teams from Bethlehem Central School District competed in the Odyssey of the Mind Region 7 competition on Sat., March 4 at Shenendehowa High School. Two of those teams, one from the high school and one from the middle school, will move on to the New York State competition at Binghamton University on Saturday, April 8.
Now an international competition, Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) was founded in 1978 by C. Samuel Micklus and Theodore Gourley in 1978 at Glassboro State College — now Rowan University — in Glassboro, N.J. That first competition, known as “Olympics of the Mind,” involved teams from 28 New Jersey schools. Currently, thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.
Administered by Creative Competitions, Inc., OotM is a creative problem-solving competition involving students from kindergarten through college. Teams of up to seven members 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 at the local, state, and world level.
Bethlehem teams worked together at length to solve a predefined problem and presented their solution to the problem at the March 4 competition, during which they also participated in a spontaneous portion of the competition — generating solutions to a problem they have not seen before. While the long-term problem solution often takes many months to complete and involves various elements of theatrical performance, construction and design, the spontaneous portion occurs the day of the competition.
“Every team brought their very best to the regional competition,” said BC Odyssey Coordinator Betsy Gumustop. “It was awesome to see five ribbons come home to Bethlehem and for two of our teams move on to the state competition.”
The winning team, from Bethlehem High School, worked together to solve a performance-related problem involving a superhero tasked with saving creativity. The team created and presented a humorous performance that included a clumsy sidekick, a nemesis, a choreographed battle and a cliffhanger ending. (A middle school team earned second place for their solution to the same problem.)
The winning team from the middle school solved a problem involving vehicular traffic and secret meetings, in which they were required to design a multi-level parking garage, act out a scene inside a car and develop a travel soundtrack.
A Hamagrael Elementary team earned Bethlehem another second place prize for designing an original robot that learns by example.
According to the OotM website, the creative problem-solving process required by the competition “rewards thinking beyond the box.” The exercises are intended to help develop team-building, listening and critical thinking skills; nurture the creative-thinking process; and increase interest in regular classroom curricula.