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Kutztown Odyssey of the Mind teams advance to states

Kutztown’s Odyssey of the Mind participated in the regional tournament at Millersville University on March 5.

“All the teams (that competed) did extremely well and because of their very high scores advanced three teams to the Pennsylvania State Tournament on April 2 at Lock Haven University,” said Douglas Wunder, director of the district’s Odyssey of the Mind program.

The kindergarten to third-grade team performed but did not compete.

“This group of youngsters was amazing,” said Wunder.

Third-grader Ajax David enjoyed performing in front of the crowd and seeing the whole play unfold.

“It taught me to get over one of my biggest fears and mainly to work together as a team. Thanks, Doug, the best coach in the world!”

“I like that we can do whatever we want and be creative,” said Leo Johnson, a fifth-grader. “It’s the best to have ideas, find stuff and look stuff up … think and have my voice heard. My ideas are heard.”

Kutztown’s Odyssey of the Mind teams competed in the regional tournament at Millersville University on March 5 and advanced to the State Tournament on April 2 at Lock Haven University. Pictured is the middle school team. (Submitted photo)

A creative problem-solving program for students K-12, students are divided into teams by grade and compete tournament style with different school districts.

“Odyssey of the Mind problems have challenged students to go beyond conventional thinking and incorporate creative problem-solving in learning,” said Wunder. “Creative problem solving is a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed.”

Problems challenge students to design mechanical devices, build working vehicles, write a new chapter to a book or put a twist on a popular art piece. Then, each team produces a performance demonstrating a solution to a panel of judges.

“While conventional education is important, learning to solve problems creatively and confidently gives them an important edge in their education and career goals,” said Wunder.

Willow Agiato, a fifth-grader, enjoyed acting and gained confidence.

“I lost my stage fright,” said Agiato. “I liked learning about Margaret Knight and how she proved that girls can do anything.”



Odyssey of the Mind is competitive.

“Teams from all around the world gather in a variety of tournaments and compete in front of trained volunteer judges solving the same problem,” said Wunder.

All teams are challenged from the same set of guidelines and compete within the same chosen problems. There are three divisions; elementary, middle school and high school.

There are two events at tournaments, Long Term and Spontaneous.

The Spontaneous event presents an impromptu question and students solve it as a team. For this, there is no prior preparation. Some are simple word problems, such as “how many words begin with bear.” Others may be making a structure with a few simple items within a time period.

The Long Term event annually presents five problems. Teams pick one and develop an eight-minute skit to solve all the requirements. Participants make vehicles, create structures, design technical devices, put together theatrical performances, and do research on a variety of subjects. This takes several months to complete.

This Year, Odyssey of the Mind challenged students to design mechanical devices that projected objects such as popcorn, create factory machines, build working vehicles, recreate battle scenes and a three-ring circus, research historical individuals from the 1800s, design a walking eyeball, and turn paper bags into a stage set.

“All Odyssey of the Mind solutions require students to perform not just the sciences but the arts as well, whether it be writing a script or making props, acting, singing or playing an instrument,” said Wunder. “These skills are important to create a balance of education so they are doing something fun; students are eager to perform and develop self-confidence and public speaking skills along the way.”

“My favorite part about OM is making a performance from scratch,” said Cash Lau, a fourth-grader. “I gained creativity and confidence. If you have great collaboration, you should join OM!”

William Hillman, a 4th grader, enjoyed working on his costume and painting the sets. “I enjoy spending time with the team and coming up with ideas.”

Fifth-grader Zoe Schwesinger liked making her ideas come to life and building as a team.

“I got to practice being more creative with my building and ideas. I love to make ideas with my team and critique them.”

Rhea Ziegler, a 4th grader, likes getting to build and create. She enjoyed writing a play about Margaret Knight.

“I enjoyed building our main background and being able to bring our ideas to life. I learned how to work as a team with other people I didn’t know at first,” said Ziegler. “I found it interesting to learn the history of a woman I had never heard of before.”

Charlotte Kuhn, a 4th grader, likes working with friends.

“I learned how to use power tools! I also learned who made the paper bag machine.”

For Lucas Lau, a 5th grader, his favorite part is creating cool things, spending time with friends and working together with his team.

“Odyssey of the Mind is awesome and you should join.”

For 11 years, Odyssey of the Mind has become an active educational program in the Kutztown Area School District. From fall to mid-spring, participating students creatively work after school at the Middle School in the Odyssey of the Mind Room which houses the necessary tools, equipment and materials to build sets, costumes and props.

This season, four teams with 25 students in all participated.

Peytan Diffenbaugh, an 8th grader, liked being inventive and trying new ideas. “I developed friendship and ‘girl power.’”

Fifth-grader Finn Erdman enjoyed working with friends and having a chance to problem-solve with new people.

Will Ziegler, a fifth-grader, liked being with friends and having snacks and learned how to work better with a team.

Joslyn Diffenbaugh, an eighth-grader, enjoyed painting and developing new art techniques. “I like to watch a project start and see it proceed until it is completed at regionals.”

A 100-percent volunteer-operated program, one or two volunteer coaches for each team get together once or twice a week with groups of five to seven students. For each team that competes at a tournament, Kutztown’s program must provide two volunteer judges.

The Kutztown Odyssey of the Mind Booster Club consists of four board members, with a marketing manager and fundraising director. A coordinator oversees and manages the program.

The Odyssey of the Mind program at the central office in New Jersey creates the framework of the program and publishes new Long Term and Spontaneous Problems each year with the help of experienced problem writers and leaders in professions represented by each problem.

For more information, visit

Source: Berkshire mont

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