Loyalsock Odyssey of the Mind team heads to Worlds

As they come out of a year that could be described as a life example of problem-solving, the Odyssey of the Mind Team from Loyalsock Township’s Middle School heads to World Finals, Friday and Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“I think the students trying to keep their solutions to their long-term problems most effective with the least amount of work required–that was just part of their problem solving. How can we get the most effective results with the limited time we have,” Michelle Bartley, Loyalsock’s OM coordinator, said of the process.

“I think it was discouraging at times, but I think that having a little bit of normalcy to their year this year, helped them get through the school year,” Bartley added.

Even practice time was different this year as students dealt with trying to prepare for competitions in the midst of a pandemic which altered the way people gathered.

“Loyalsock did allow us to meet in person. We had to wear masks and there were limited practices. In a normal year they may practice two to three times a week. This year we were only allowed to practice in-person one day a week,” Bartley said.

Other practices were held on ZOOM. Challenges would also arise if schools in the district went remote because of COVID which meant that practices could only be conducted virtually. Or, Bartley noted, if any of the students had to be quarantined because of coming into contact with an infected person.

Odyssey of the Mind is a problem-solving competition that promotes creative thinking in students from kindergarten to college, according to Bartley.

The students are grouped into teams and then select a problem to solve. Problems can range from building mechanical devices to presenting an interpretation of literary classics. All work must be done on their own without any input from outside the group.

Teams then compete at local and state levels before reaching the world level.

This year’s Middle School team at Loyalsock designed a vehicle, which could not be battery-powered, to carry one team member around a course.

“Through their determination and perseverance in this difficult year, the team created a solution that advanced them through Regional and State-level competitions and now on to Worlds,” according to Bartley.

One of the biggest differences the students experienced this year is that they didn’t have the opportunity to go to any in-person competitions,

“We did do a limited audience exhibition so they could perform there. All the competitions have been recorded and submitted virtually,” Bartley said.

There were also fewer district teams participating this year.

Loyalsock had four teams, which is considerably less than normal, Bartley said. There were two elementary and two middle school teams, but no teams from the high school this year.

Although the one team from the Middle School is going in-person to World Finals, two other teams competed virtually in the World Finals, by submitting a recording and performing the spontaneous portion of the competition by ZOOM.

The team headed to the World Finals is:

Loyalsock Middle School – Problem 1 Div 2 — Omer the roMer — Coach Tatum Heiser (vehicle problem) — 1st Place Problem 1 Div 2 (regional competition)


Katherine Heiser

Julia Ellis

Aadi Patel

Dakota Fluck

Preston Heiser

Maria Pardoe

Lincoln Patchett


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