SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Odyssey of the Mind is a creative competition that started in the 1970s. It involves students writing, creating props for and ultimately performing an up to eight-minute skit which they are judged on. Teams can select one of a variety of different problems which they must solve during their skit. For the skit, teams are scored on their problem-solving ability and overall creativity.
While the skit is the main scoring aspect of Odyssey of the Mind, there is also another portion competition that factors into the final scoring. Spontaneous takes place during the competition and is named such as teams do not know what their task will be until they enter the competition room. For spontaneous, teams can be given one of three types of problems: verbal, verbal hands-on, or hands-on. Verbal problems require team members to quickly come up with creative responses based on a prompt.
“Your goal is to come up with the most creative answers,” said first year OMer Mallory. “If you get creative answers you get like five points and if you don’t you get like one point.”
Verbal hands-on problems require team members to physically create something using items provided by the spontaneous judges and make creative comments on that item they created. Hands-on problems require OMers to physically create a solution to the given problem, combining technical, creative and teamwork skills. Throughout the entirety of an Odyssey of the Mind competition season, team members are sworn to secrecy of what their spontaneous problem was, making sure other teams do not hear the problem ahead of time and have an unfair advantage.
At the end of competition, the scores of a team’s skit and spontaneous scores are added up to determine the winners. At the awards ceremony where winners are announced, there are additional honors outside of the traditional ranking of teams scores. At the New York State Odyssey of the Mind finals, high school seniors and first-year college students who applied find out if they won a scholarship sponsored by the New York State Odyssey of the Mind Association. A member of the Johnstown High School Odyssey of the Mind team, Alex DeMagistris, was one of this year’s winners of the $1 thousand scholarship and says he will be putting that money towards college expenses.
“I had to make a three to five minute video explaining what it’s like on competition day and so for me, I thought it’d be cool to do like a documentary of me at competitions,” said DeMagistris. “At the regional competition this year, I videoed a lot of performance clips of performances and walking around competition, and I basically just did like a vlog of my competition day.”
Another special award that teams can earn is the Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award. This award is given to a team or individuals who show outstanding creativity and embodies what Odyssey of the Mind stands for. The award is named after the Ranatra Fusca species of water insect. This name comes from the creator of Odyssey of the Mind, Dr. Sam Micklus. Students in a college class he was teaching were required to design a device to transport them across a pond. One student created a water bug-like contraption that ultimately failed to solve the problem but was an exceptionally creative idea.
In addition to their third-place win, the Johnstown High School team was also awarded a Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award. They won this do to the extreme creativity of their vehicles propulsion system. The team got a Ranatra Fusca award at both the regional and state tournaments.
Teams that place in the top three of their problem and division or won a Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award move on to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, this year held in East Lansing Michigan from May 24 to May 27.