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Odyssey of the Mind team bound for World Finals

Mar. 26—THOMASVILLE- The Thomas County Odyssey of the Mind team is headed to the World Finals in Iowa after securing a first-place regional win and second-place finish at the State Finals.

Sponsored by Thomasville High School biology teacher Amanda Russo, the Odyssey of the Mind team works to create solutions to prompted tasks.

"Odyssey of the Mind was started in New Jersey forty years ago with a school teacher and students who failed to do something," Russo explained. "The whole synopsis is kids are given five different problems to choose from and they must create a solution."

This year, Odyssey of the Mind teams were given five options to choose from including a vehicle problem, a technical problem, a classics problem, a structure problem, or a performance problem.

Russo's team chose the structure problem. The problem asked the team to "picture a 15-gram structure made of balsa wood holding and balancing a stack of weights while getting rammed, twisted, or even broken apart."

According to Russo, the majority of teams competing at regionals and state choose the performance problem, because they can often come across as the easiest of the five problems.

Regardless of the problem chosen, Odyssey of the Mind teams must come up with a solution without any outside assistance.

Even without the help of Russo, students crafted a structure from balsa wood that held 520 pounds at state finals, earning them second place.

While problem-solving is essential in helping win the competition, a creative 8-minute skit is also required, along with a pre-built set they act around.

"Their performance had to do with deep space, so they pretended to be space pirates and built a boat in space, complete with oars," Russo said.

The creativity in the performance, written by Mark Russo, was strongly noted by judges at the State Competition, who appreciated the scientist and Sputnik, among other characters, prompting the team to be awarded higher scores than any previous performance.

"They didn't get any penalties, but we didn't get many points for style, so we want to try and improve that before World Finals," Russo said.

The World Finals are the pinnacle for any Odyssey of the Mind team. Teams are sharing a true world stage with the likes of South Korea, Poland, Mexico, and Hong Kong to name a few. They will all share the arena at Iowa State University this May.

At the World Finals, Odyssey of the Mind teams will showcase their solution to a problem and perform their skit, but the real fun is trading pins with students from all over the world. Pins are unique to Odyssey of the Mind teams, with each team having its own unique marker that they can trade with other countries.

"It's a good way for them to meet and talk," Russo said.

To help initiate camaraderie among the teams, most teams are assigned a "buddy team." When the Thomas County Odyssey of the Mind previously attended the World Finals they were paired with Mexico and enjoyed dining and interacting with students from Mexico.

"The kids are hoping to have a Buddy Team from Poland or South Korea this year," Russo said.

Seventh-grade student Katie Montez shared that this is her first time attending the World Finals and looks most forward to meeting tons of new people, especially those from Mexico and Korea while sharing her pins.

Sixth-grade Lucy Basford agreed.

"I'm most excited to meet new people and make a lot of new friends," she said. "I'm also excited to trade pins because I collect pins and put them on my jean jacket."

When not trading pins and meeting new friends, the team hopes to gain feedback and learn ways they can improve.

"I'm expecting to gain more feedback and learn how we can improve next year," Basford said. "I want to get some experience on how to do things so that they can work. It is my first year, so I think it would help me a lot."

With World Finals right around the corner, the Odyssey of the Mind team is looking for ways to fundraise their trip. They will be selling some of their unique pins for a donation of $15 toward the flight and stay at Iowa State.