Apologies for the dearth of blog entries, everyone! In addition to helping some friends shoot their first feature, I’ve been giving a lot of my time to a program called Odyssey of the Mind. I’ve been involved with it for roughly 20 years. I competed from elementary school through college, and since then, I’ve volunteered as an official.
I hate describing the program, because it’s easy to over-explain or under-explain, and, either way, it often leaves people scratching their heads. In a nutshell, it’s a creative problem-solving competition. Teams of five to seven students work for several months on their Long Term solution. There are five types of LT problems to choose from: one is centered around a vehicle created by the team, another is centered around a performance based on classic art or literature, another involves a balsa wood structure and how much weight it holds.
The team does everything. They design their vehicle or structure, they research classic art and literature. They write a script and build their props and sets. Everything. In addition to performing their Long Term solution, teams are given a Spontaneous problem on the day of competition. In the months leading up to the tournament, teams solve practice problems, but they have no idea what they’ll face in the Spontaneous Room. Problems can be hands-on, requiring them to build a structure out of toothpicks and mailing labels and then receive points for the amount of weight it holds. Or they can be verbal, which might involve each student contributing a line to a team-created story that receives points based on creativity and the number of responses in a set period of time.
The program offers many takeaways, like budgeting and time management, but there are three real pillars. The first is independence. Did I mention the students do everything? The second is creativity. The program demonstrates that often there’s more than one right way to solve a problem. And finally, the program teaches the value of teamwork. As an only child, this was the most valuable lesson I learned. During my early years with Odyssey, I was shocked (SHOCKED!) when my teammates didn’t immediately accept my ideas.
But my ego sustained a few blows, and I turned out all right in the end — certainly better than I might have without Odyssey. It’s given me a lot to be thankful for. I’ve made so many wonderful friendships through the program, even my wife and my best friend.