Odessey of the Mind

Coach Hallie Schnapf, 11, at Fritz Elementary cheers on her team Saturday in Millersville.

It takes one kind of skill to figure out how to do something and then go do it.

It takes an entirely different kind of skill to try, fail, figure out where you went wrong and try again.

Six months of study, trial, error, finessing, redesigning and brainstorming were on display Saturday at the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition. The all-day event, held for the ninth time at Millersville University, hosted more than 80 elementary- and secondary-school teams at the first level of the international competition.

The goal: Creative problem-solving. The process: Pick one of five problems. Form a team. Read the rules — and then you presentation is only limited by imagination.

You could create a cooking show or a science fiction hangout; perform an entire skit using no language but, instead, three-dimensional emojis; or build a balsa-wood animal that would change appearance and bear as much weight as possible.

Getting ready

Huddled on the lower level of MU’s Student Memorial Center, students were putting the finishing touches on vehicles they’d built for the Triathlon Travels event. Ellie Oberle, a fourth-grader at Manheim Township’s Reidenbaugh Elementary, said regular meetings since almost the beginning of the school year were needed to figure out a theme and then build a vehicle that would propel them through curling, jousting and running track, change appearance and navigate in two directions.

Across the room, a team of Solanco sixth-graders put the finishing touches on a presentation that Brady Janssen said they’d been developing since October for their few minutes of OM competition.

“We read over the (project) prompts,” Ben Williams, one of seven team members, said. “Most of us like building things, and making costumes, and this incorporated both of them.”

The team’s once-a-week sessions ramped up to long weekend construction meetings as competition neared, Kira Brazelton said, with some team members like Olivia Taylor tasked with organization; script editing shouldered by Brandi Astheimer and building brainstorming by Owen Underwood.

“The most challenging part,” team member Josie Janssen said, “was just to get together to do this — and we got a lot farther than it seemed we would at first.”

Gerald Boyd, a Solanco teacher and first-time OM coach, said the challenges — and mistakes along the way — are good for the kids.

“It’s really great,” Boyd said, “because it forced them to fail at something, and to go back and make it work. They had to learn to share roles. So, no matter how you place, it’s an awesome opportunity.”


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