April 12, 2019
Wakulla High School Odyssey of the Mind Team A is headed to the World Finals where they will compete with students from 47 states and 25 countries in the world’s largest creative problem-solving competition.
Winning 2019 WHS Team A consists of senior Jake Greene; juniors Abigail Gray, Ally Harden, Zoie Hill, “Jay” Jacob, and Ashiera Preston; and freshman Abbi Hatfield. Coaches are WHS Engineering Academy teacher Christopher Stearns and WHS Reading Coach Angie Gentry.
“We appreciate all the support from WHS Principal Mike Barwick and Superintendent Bobby Pearce,” says Coach Stearns. “I think our school district is seeing the benefits for our students in practicing everything from time-management to resourcefulness.
“Our parents have been fantastic supporters too. We have one parent driving all the way to Michigan to bring our props so we don’t have to ship them.
“Also, Odyssey of the Mind encourages community involvement. We are trying to make Odyssey sustainable by fostering partnerships with engineering firms, construction companies, math and science-based professions, as well as tap into some of the creative people we have in Wakulla from acting to music to art.”
The 40th annual World Finals will host 825 teams of over 6,000 students May 22-25 at Michigan State University.
Teams span all ages: Division I – Elementary Schools; Division II – Middle Schools; Division III – High Schools; and Division IV – Colleges. Scholarships are awarded at the high school and college levels.
Some of the competing countries include Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, and Uzbekistan, with more countries added every year. The WHS team has requested a team from Hong Kong as their first choice to be paired with for getting to know each other and spending the most time with.
Odyssey of the Mind is a non-profit organization founded in 1978 by Industrial Design professor Dr. Sam Micklus to encourage students to “think outside the box” in finding creative solutions to problems that include technical, mechanical, communication, structural, and performance categories.
WHS Team A picked the “Technical” category. They have been working on their Long-Term Problem since August, 2018, designing, building, and operating a creature that hides in plain sight. The creature has to change its appearance three times to avoid being detected by a character trying to find it. The team creates and presents a performance where its creature gets into – or out of – various situations using this resourceful skill.
“I see the benefits of our students getting more and more exposure to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields like with our Medical Academy, Engineering Academy, CTE (Career and Technical Education) certifications and Odyssey of the Mind, to name a few. Most people outside of public education would be astounded at how much these young people, elementary through high school, want to learn more so they can improve our world,” notes WHS Principal Mike Barwick.
Nine years ago, the first and only Wakulla Odyssey of the Mind team was born at Riversink Elementary School. Two young students got interested in Odyssey of the Mind and have participated ever since. RES grads Abigail Gray and Ashiera Preston are now on the World qualifying 2019 WHS team.
Now, every school in the Wakulla School District fields at least one Odyssey team.
Wakulla County schools entered 10 teams at the Odyssey of the Mind Regionals on February 16 at Riversprings Middle School. Eight of the 10 Wakulla teams qualified to compete at State competition on April 6 in Orlando at UCF.
At State, WHS Team A came in first in their category and division with a score that was a full 34 points higher than the second place team.
The Crawfordville Elementary team and the Wakulla Middle School team both came in 4th place in their categories and divisions.
Medart Elementary (two teams), Shadeville Elementary, Riversprings Middle, and WHS Team B also competed at State after qualifying at Regionals.
During Regional, State, and World competition, teams are also handed a Spontaneous Problem to solve the day of competition.
With a limit of seven members and strict adherence to the rules of no adult problem-solving and a set budget, the teams are judged on creativity, execution, and teamwork. All members must participate equally.
“It amazes me how much our students can juggle all they have to do in a day. Every one of our students on both WHS Odyssey teams were involved with one or two or more activities like National Honor Society, sports, or class office, all while keeping their grades up,” says Coach Gentry.
“Time-management and compromise were two skills I saw evolve as we had to work around everyone’s busy schedules. In fact, the WHS Prom was the same date as State competition in Orlando. Rather than let down their team, those who were going to Prom participated in Odyssey April 6 and I drove them home as soon as they were done performing.”
At Michigan State, in addition to the World competition performances by school teams, there will be a Creativity Festival, an International Festival, a Coaches and Officials Competition, and NASA-sponsored events. Participants are given many opportunities to get to know fellow students from around the world.
On Friday night May 24, as his class is graduating on the WHS football field, senior Jake Greene will participate in a graduation ceremony for those missing their graduation to compete with their Odyssey team. Some of Jake’s family will be attending his graduation ceremony in Michigan.
Watching all the Odyssey performances and attending these activities is free to the public. World Finals will culminate by crowning the World Champions of Creative Problem Solving during the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 25.
“Odyssey of the Mind is a lot of work for students and coaches, but it is definitely one of the ways we can prepare our children for their future jobs and families where teamwork and creative problem-solving are so important,” adds Superintendent Bobby Pearce.