Odyssey of the Mind brings great minds together

On Saturday, hundreds of students from across the northcentral region will set course for the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition at Berwick High School.

Students have worked together, for up to six months, to develop an eight minute, long term problem solution. They spend many hours honing their communication, engineering, math and science skills to sharpen their ability in resolving spontaneous problems.

Competition and scoring is based on two elements, long term and spontaneous problem solving. Teams are based by age and grade level, then are assigned in one of the three competition divisions.

The Primary Division is for grades kindergarten through two, which is non-competitive. Students in the primary level teams will be asked to solve a problem called “The World’s First Art Festival.” The team’s problem will be to create and present an original humorous performance about a prehistoric art festival. The team will have to include artwork, dance, music, song and a backdrop that is a replica of a cave painting.

Division I is for grades kindergarten through five and students must have been less than 12 years of age on May 1, 2013. The Division II is for grades six through eight, and students must be less than 15 years of age before May 1, 2013. Division III is for grades nine through 12 and must not be attending any type of college or University. Division IV is for college and university students only, and are the only ones that may participate in the World Finals.

For the first long-term synopsis problem, “Driver’s Test,” is for teams in divisions I, II and III. Teams will design, build and drive a vehicle that will travel a course where a student driver attempts to complete tasks in order to pass a driver’s test. The vehicle will travel using one propulsion system, and then travel in reverse using a different propulsion system. The vehicle will encounter a directional signal and have a Global Positioning System that talks to the driver. The team will create a theme for the presentation that incorporates the vehicle, a driver’s test, a student and the talking GPS.

The second problem is titled “The Not-So-Haunted House,” for divisions I, II, III and IV. The team’s problem is to create and present an original performance that includes a pop-up-style not-so-haunted “house,” where four special effects take place.

The intent of the special effects will be to scare others, but they will produce a different result instead.

The performance will include at least one character that experiences the special effects and a narrator who relays the experiences to the audience. It will also include a surprise ending. The special effects will be scored for originality and engineering.

Problem three is titled “It’s How We Rule,” for divisions I, II, III and IV. In this problem, teams will re-create a King’s Court from history and make their own Royal Court set in an original kingdom at a different time and place.

The Historic Court will issue a decree that fits in with its history, while the team-created Royal Court will issue a decree that changes an everyday behavior for the people in the kingdom.

The Historic court will be composed as the team wishes, but the original Royal Court will be made up of a leader, a minstrel that performs a song while playing a team-created instrument, and a jester that makes fun of the leader. The performance will include puppets and a “people” (a person portrayed as a puppet) and will be scored for humor.

Problem four is titled “The Stackable Structure” for divisions I, II, III and IV. Teams will design and build a structure made up of separate components stacked on top of one another.

The structure components will be made of only balsa wood and glue, and will be tested by balancing and supporting weights after they are stacked. Teams will be scored for the number of components they use in their final structure.

Before they are stacked, the separate components will be integrated into an artistic representation of Earth.

The team will include the stacking of the components, placement of the weights and Earth into the theme of its performance.

The final problem is titled “Seeing is Believing,” for divisions I, II, III and IV. In this problem teams will create and present an original performance about a community that feels threatened by something in a location it (the team) has never visited.

The community townspeople will use a creative method to select one or more travelers to visit and explore the location. While at the location, a traveler will use a means of communication to send a message home to convince the community that there is nothing to fear.

The performance will also include a narrator character, two rhymes about the travels, and a moving set piece.

There also will be spontaneous short-term problems throughout the conference. The brain testers will be kept secret until the teams enter the room and are given the problem to solve. These problems help students build verbal skills and mechanical skills.