An ‘Odyssey’ of problem solving

By: Nick D’Amore
   Two local Odyssey of the Mind teams from the Upper Elementary School and South Brunswick High School will compete at the world competition at the University of Colorado in May.
   Lynne Fox, Odyssey of the Mind district coordinator and UES assistant principal, said the teams are currently trying to raise $14,000 to pay for their trip to the competition.
   The world competition will take place May 22 through May 26.
   The two teams are fifth-graders from UES and a group of SBHS freshmen, sophomore and juniors.
   Ms. Fox said the two teams had to compete in two qualifying rounds, which included the state competition on March 16, in which the teams had to place in the top two positions to advance to the world competition.
   "It’s team problem solving at its best," she said.
   The Odyssey of the Mind program is an international competition for students in elementary school through college to work as a team to solve open-ended problems in creative ways.
   To qualify, the two teams had to solve two problems, one spontaneous and one long-term problem.
   "For the spontaneous problem, they really had to think on their feet," said Ms. Fox.
   The students were given a problem on the day of the state competition and had only two minutes to solve it.
   The long-term problem was different for each team. The fifth-graders solved the Ostrich Factor problem, which required them write a comedic performance based on a character that becomes invisible when it hides its head.
   The problem solved by the SBHS team was the Chameleon, which required them to make and drive a vehicle that changed appearance as it drove through three different environments, created by the team.
   "It was stiff competition to get there. We were like the underdogs," said Ms. Fox.
   Among the fund-raising activities will be a faculty basketball game with fifth-grade teachers taking on sixth-grade teachers on April 19. Also, an Odyssey of the Mind student performance will be held at UES Math, Science and Technology night on April 29 and a school dance will be held May 10. The teams also will be selling snacks at school events and accepting donations.