by Michelle Kretzschmar
Odyssey of the Mind is one of the
activities offered by HERO. To get an official version of what is
Odyssey of the Mind, visit the Odyssey of the Mind website at
http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/learn_more.php. My quick version is
that it's a creative problem solving competition that requires kids to
be responsible for all work and ideas. In other words, no parental
assistance a la school science fair projects. Any help from non-team
members, whether in building a structure or the providing the original
idea for the structure, is considered "outside assistance" and can be
way it works is that you form a team of five to seven kids. The team
then selects a long term problem to work on and present at a regional
competition. There are five problems to choose from and you can see a
summary of the problem on the Odyssey of the Mind website. The problems
range from the very technical balsa wood structure problem to the
completely theatrical performance problem. The team works on the long
term problem during the year and practice for a spontaneous problem
that they will receive at the tournament.
The great thing about
Odyssey of the Mind is that it has something for everyone's interest.
All problems require and eight minute skit to present the solution.
There is always a need for acting, props, and scripts. Two of the
problems always require technical work as well in either building a
structure or a some sort of car. You don't have to act if you don't
want to and you don't have to build either. The critical aspect is that
you will have to work on a team. This is a team problem solving
competition and requires everyone to learn to work with one another.
actual process starts in August. During that time period I will have
information sessions at the library explaining what Odyssey of the Mind
is about and doing spontaneous problems with the kids. After the
information sessions, we meet weekly for a couple hours working on team
building and problem solving skills as well as more spontaneous
problems. During this time I encourage everyone to give serious thought
to if this is how they want spend their time for the next few months.
As we get closer to competition (end of February, beginning of March),
it becomes a major commitment. The teams will meet more often and
individual members will have more responsibilities to complete on their
don't actually form teams and allow them to pick a problem until the
end of October. The main reason is that once a team starts working on a
long term problem, everyone who works on it is required to be listed on
the roster. If we already have seven members and someone quits, we
cannot replace them. That's why I want everyone to take their time and
decide that Odyssey is right for them before they make a commitment.
Basically, I spend the first two months trying to scare everyone off.
Last year we started with 20 kids and ended up with ten.
is no "typical" problem solution. The first year, our team made puppets
and was the only team to do so at the competition. The second year,
they made "launchers" that propelled paper machier "green house gases"
into the atmosphere. Last year they made a set of "Mars Rovers" that
was supposed to complete an obstacle course. This year they built a
device out of pvc pipe that could extent and transfer items from area
to another. And none of these solutions looked like any of the other
solutions presented at the competition.
The competition is fun
and we have done well enough each year to send at least one team to the
state competition. However, if you are going to spend six month working
on this project, you can't being doing it just to win. Odyssey of the
Mind is really about the process rather than the solution. In solving
the problem, the team members learn to think for themselves, how to
compromise and interact with others, and how to come up with ideas when
they don't think they have any. It is absolutely nerve-racking for the
parents since you can see such an obvious solution but can't say
anything although many have experimented with telepathy with mixed
If you are interested in Odyssey of the Mind, you don't
have to do it on my team or even with HERO. We have had HERO teams form
in both Bandera and Floresville. You don't even have to have five kids,
two of our teams had only four. I would be happy to help out anyone
who is interested in forming a team.