Standing - Jake Greene, Assistant Coach Chris Stearns, Coach Nick Weaver, Nathan Cushard
Middle - Abigail Gray, Ally Harden, Zoie Hill
Seated - Russell Fleming, Edwin "Jay" Jacob
June 12, 2017
Wakulla High School Odyssey of the Mind Team A competed in the World Finals of the world’s largest creative problem-solving competition on May 24-27 at Michigan State University.
They are the first Wakulla team ever to attend World Finals after qualifying through regional and then state Odyssey of the Mind competitions. This year, the 38th annual World Finals hosted 833 teams of almost 6,000 students from 15 countries and 33 states.
The young 7-member WHS team consisted of 2016-2017 juniors Nathan Cushard and Russell Fleming; sophomore Jake Greene; and freshmen Zoie Hill, Ally Harden, Abigail Gray, and Edwin “Jay” Jacob. They were coached by Riversprings Middle School Associate Dean Nicholas Weaver, who was just named as the new principal of Shadeville Elementary School for 2017-2018. WHS Engineering teacher Chris Stearns also assisted the team.
WHS Team A placed 17th out of the 40 schools in their category at the World Finals. “Some of the teams had been together attending World competition for three years,” states Weaver. “We were happy with how we placed, but vowed to do even better each year. There is no other option for us now that we got to see what World Finals was all about. It was a fantastic cultural experience for our students.”
WHS competed against 39 teams including those from Hong Kong, Singapore, Slovakia, Canada, India, Mexico, Poland and 19 different U.S. states; some states and countries had more than one team qualify for World Finals.
The Odyssey problems incorporate STEAM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math). NASA sponsors one of the five problems each year and had “an impressive exhibit at the World Finals,” according to Weaver.
WHS Team A picked the “Technical” problem from the choice of five categories. They worked on their Long-Term Problem since August, 2016. Students designed, built, and operated an original robot that demonstrated human characteristics when executing tasks. In addition, they incorporated the robot into a team performance.
Only 19 teams were recognized at the Awards Ceremony attended by 18,000 people. These 19 placed first in their age group (elementary, middle school, high school, college) for one of the five problems given this year. Some problems had three of the four age groups compete.
Nathan Cushard states, “My favorite part of the whole week was meeting our ‘buddy team’ from Poland and experiencing World Finals with students like us from another country. World Odyssey was a big learning experience for me, as well as for our team, and I’m excited to try for it again.”
Each team was paired with another team that they would not be competing against for the duration of the World Finals. Wakulla requested an international team. The “buddy teams” lived in the same dorm, ate together, and cheered each other on at their respective competitions.
Says Weaver, “It was the third time this school from Poland had qualified for World Finals, and they said we were the friendliest, most helpful team so far. Many of the students plan to keep in touch. After each participant at World Finals exchanged memorabilia representing their state or country, upon returning to Poland, our buddy team sent us a picture of a Florida flamingo placed in the middle of Warsaw.”
“For some of our Wakulla students, it was their first time flying, or definitely travelling that far. Besides their exposure to different cultures, they also got to ‘live the college life’ for the week, staying in MSU dorms, eating at the MSU cafeteria, and touring campus the whole time.”
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.
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.
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. Many others also contributed after WHS Team A qualified for World Finals.
“Special thanks to Superintendent Pearce and the Wakulla County School Board for supporting us in this international competition,” says Weaver.
States Superintendent Bobby Pearce, “The WHS Odyssey Team A did a great job representing Wakulla at the World Finals. This again reminds us that our students from a small rural district can compete against anyone from anywhere. This team showed all of us that Wakulla students have the tools to compete on a global level.”
Students from Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India , Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, and 33 states across the U.S. not only competed, but made life-long friends by experiencing the Odyssey of the Mind belief that creativity spans cultures and differences as a worldwide human trait.