The 38th World Finals competition of Odyssey of the Mind is taking place on MSU’s campus May 24 to May 27. About 850 teams of seven, along with parents, siblings and coaches, have gathered to East Lansing for the event.
According to its website, Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that allows children in grades K-12, as well as college students, to compete against other students in their age divisions.
Throughout the school year, teams are given problem sets to solve. Problems range in topic from technical to classic art and history, and the solution to each is presented through a live performance by the teams. At a local competition, teams present their solutions and solve a final “spontaneous” problem. The top teams advance to the World Finals, where they face off for the last time.
Christina Lam is a high schooler from Hong Kong who traveled to MSU to compete in the World Finals with her team for the first time. Lam said Odyssey of the Mind is more than just an educational competition.
“Actually, when I first joined this program I had no idea what this is," Lam said. "But then I realized this is a very good experience. … You get to meet many people from around the world."
Lam’s favorite part of the World Finals is pin trading, which allows students to exchange pins that are unique to their team’s location.
Parents and coaches also appreciate the learning and social opportunities that Odyssey of the Mind provides for students.
Steven and Tina Edgin traveled with their daughter from Arkansas to the World Finals along with several other teams from the same school.
“It’s neat seeing all the different countries come together from all over the world. Our first time here, we didn’t realize there were so many different countries that participated and came here,” Steven Edgin said.
Their daughter’s team took on a buddy team from China who also made it to the World Finals. The buddy teams compete in the same division and spend leisure time together during the competition, which allows students to learn about other cultures and make new friends from across the world.
“It’s a very big ordeal to get here," Steven Edgin said. "They go through lots of fundraising. They start out with regionals, which is just in our area amongst a few schools, then they go to the state level, and then it's the world level.”
Joanne Wiernusz has been coaching students in Odyssey of the Mind in the North Penn school district for eight years. This year, she took on a new team, which made it to the World Finals, allowing her to attend the event for the eighth year in a row.
“It’s a competitive problem-solving program," Wiernusz said. "The solution is an eight-minute skit, and the kids make all their own costumes, props and only these seven kids contribute to the solution. No parents, no coaches.”
While Odyssey of the Mind has a number of unique traits about it, Wiernusz too said the pin trading and mingling of cultures is a big draw.
“It’s the whole socialization with people from across the country, and around the world," Wiernusz said. "The big draw is the pin trading. Each state and each country has their own set of pins. That’s what sparks the conversation.”
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