Wakulla High Odyssey of the Mind Team Headed to World Finals
Photo left to right with sign: Nathan Cushard, Zoie Hill, Abigail Gray, Jake Greene, Ally Harden, Jay Jacob, Russell Fleming
Photo with Coach and Trophy: Russell Fleming, Coach Nick Weaver, Nathan Cushard
Photo with Medals and Trophy: Jay Jacob, Russell Fleming, Jake Greene, Nathan Cushard, Abigail Gray, Ally Harden, Zoie Hill
Wakulla High School Odyssey of the Mind Team A is headed to the World Finals where they will compete against students from 25 countries in the world’s largest creative problem-solving competition.
They are the first Wakulla team ever to qualify for World Finals, which will be held May 24-27, 2017 at Michigan State University. This year, the 38th annual World Finals will host 825 teams of over 6,000 students.
The young 7-member WHS team consists of juniors Nathan Cushard and Russell Fleming; sophomore Jake Greene; and freshmen Zoie Hill, Ally Harden, Abigail Gray, and “Jay” Jacob. They are coached by Riversprings Middle School Associate Dean Nicholas Weaver. WHS Engineering teacher Chris Stearns also assisted the team.
Superintendent Bobby Pearce notes, “Coach Weaver has shown his leadership and ability to motivate students at all levels. He started years ago with an Odyssey team at Riversink Elementary when he taught there, then fielded two and three teams a year at Wakulla High as a WHS math teacher, then stayed with his WHS team even after getting the job at RMS last summer.”
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” problem from the choice of five categories. They have been working on their Long-Term Problem since August, 2016. They designed, built, and operated an original robot that demonstrates human characteristics when executing tasks. In addition, they incorporated the robot into a team performance.
“Due to still being in the competition, we can’t reveal any more than that,” says Weaver.
State judges’ comments included “very creative”, “bold choices”, and “way to power through as a team”.
During Regional, State, and World competition, teams are also handed a Spontaneous Problem to solve the day of competition.
With a limit of 7 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.
Says Weaver, “When they announced that we had made it to World Finals, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I cannot lie, I got a little choked up. I was so very proud of the team, and so proud of what we have done in such a short period of time with Odyssey. I knew this was possible when Megan Crombie and I started with one team in the whole district from Riversink Elementary seven years ago.”
Now every school in the district fields at least one team due to its popularity with students.
“It has always been the goal to take a team to World competition,” Weaver shares. “It is amazing that we have reached our goal in such a short time. The kids have worked so very hard for this. To think that Abigail Gray was a team member on the second Odyssey of the Mind team at Riversink Elementary and she is now on the high school team going to the World Finals!”
Adds Abigail, "I have gained tremendous confidence in myself. My team believes that we can do anything we put our minds to. Working with others has allowed me to grow.”
Worried about how to fund the expensive trip to World Finals, Weaver was excited that Superintendent Pearce and the Wakulla County School Board authorized payment for transportation, room, and board for the several day competition. Says Pearce, “We treat this like any group we would have competing at a national or international level. It’s our responsibility to support them as they bring honor and recognition to all of us by representing Wakulla on this big a stage.”
Of course there are many other expenses to the trip, and while sponsors are also helping out, anyone who would like to make a much needed donation can send a check to “WHS Odyssey of the Mind”, Wakulla High School, 3237 Coastal Highway, Crawfordville, FL 32327, attention Nick Weaver.
Weaver thanks yearlong sponsors of the WHS Odyssey of the Mind teams including Allegiant Consulting and Management Services; SDR Engineering, INC.; Finley Engineering Group; Tammy McRae; and the Wakulla Men’s Club.
Ten Wakulla teams participated in Regional competition in February. Medart Elementary, Wakulla Middle, two Riversprings Middle and three Wakulla High teams then qualified for State and participated against teams from across Florida at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on April 8, 2017.
Teams who qualify at their various State Odyssey tournaments advance directly to the World Finals to compete against teams from countries such as China, Japan, Sweden, and Canada.
All the teams work on solutions to their Long-Term Problem for months under the supervision of their coaches. Many of the problems incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, with NASA usually sponsoring one of the five problems each year.
Says Weaver, “I think we are beginning to see the benefits of having Odyssey of the Mind in all levels of the Wakulla County school system. It allows students to collaborate and create projects that cannot be measured on a standardized test.”
Pearce notes, “This type of problem-solving is perfect for our creative students who like to look at possible solutions from many angles. It’s especially important because they have to learn to work out compromises with their teammates. Odyssey is one of many opportunities like the WHS Medical Academy and the WHS Engineering Academy that can lead to STEM careers.”