Students from Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate, J.W. Dodd Middle and Freeport High School cheered as a group of their peers from FHS appeared on stage to accept a first-place trophy at the 40th annual Odyssey of the Mind on March 2. The team’s top showing in the competition’s Opposites Attract category earned members a trip to the upcoming state Odyssey of the Mind.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem-solving contest in which students from elementary to high school compete to solve a set of challenges with technical and artistic solutions. They are given the categories in the fall, work on the problems for most of the school year and gather to present their solutions. For the past three years, the event has been held at Atkinson Intermediate. The tournament attracts students from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The state Odyssey tournament will be held March 23 at Binghamton University and schools in Vestal, N.Y. If the Freeport High team were to win there, it could move on to the 2019 World Finals, scheduled for May 22-25 at Michigan State University.
Odyssey of the Mind had been run locally by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, but Freeport took it over at the suggestion of district Superintendent Dr. Kishore Kuncham and Atkinson Principal Connie Velez. The program is funded by New York State Odyssey of the Mind, and Freeport hosts the state’s Regions 1 and 2, which include schools from Long Island and New York City.
According to Region 2 Director Dr. Renee Blake, a professor of linguistics and social and cultural analysis at New York University, the program is an important foundation for students to learn how to solve problems through critical thinking while teaching them teamwork.
“The goal is really to expose the students to creative problem-solving,” Blake said, “not just as individuals, but as a team.”
The camaraderie among Odyssey teammates is strong, she said. When she became the regional director last year, she told her NYU doctoral students about her new role. Many said they had taken part in the competition as children.
Student competitors presented their solutions to five problems last Saturday. Freeport students chose to present solutions in the Leonardo’s Workshop and Opposites Attract categories. In Leonardo’s Workshop, the teams portrayed a day in the workplace of Leonardo da Vinci and performed a skit or song involving the Italian Renaissance artist and inventor. The skit had to include a “naysayer” who was skeptical of the group’s invention.
Opposites Attract addressed disagreements in groups that can distract teams from seeing a bigger picture. The teams offer humorous performances focusing on a character who tries to distract others while taking control of the group. Teams must show how they overcame the distractions.
“We had to come up with creative ideas on the spot that we didn’t know beforehand,” said FHS freshman Myles Hollingsworth, 14.
“This has been a thrill working on this,” another freshman, 14-year-old Jillian Igneri, added. “It’s amazing to see it just come together, and it was just eight minutes.”
The high-schoolers started their projects in late September, working for an hour every afternoon up to the day before the competition. According to junior Nelson Robles, 16, taking part in Odyssey of the Mind was an eye-opening experience that gave him new insight into how to solve problems in his personal life.
“It was interesting to see how we were all given the same problem and rules,” Hollingsworth said, “but how we all branched out differently.”
“It really shows you how you can be given a problem, but anyone can come up with as many possibilities in different groups to solve it,” Robles said. “This really showed us the creativity of other schools and how they interpreted the problems.”