New Canaan Odyssey of the Mind teams heading to World Finals
Thirteen teams from New Canaan competed the weekend of April 6 in the 32nd annual Odyssey of the Mind state tournament and five of those teams secured a place in the World Finals at Michigan State University on Memorial Day weekend.
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving competition involving students from kindergarten through college. Team members work together to solve a predefined problem and present their solution at a competition. They must also generate spontaneous solutions to a problem they have not seen before, which are presented only to the judges of the competition.
Every year, New Canaan sends teams from Division I (grades 3 to 5), Division II (grades 6 to 8) and Division III (grades 9 to 12).
The "Long Term" problems always come from the same five categories, but the challenge varies from year to year:
Vehicle: involves building vehicles of different sizes that must perform specified tasks.
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Technical: involves building "innovative contraptions."
Classics: incorporates knowledge of architecture, art and literature.
Structure: requires the designing and building of a structure using only balsa wood and glue, and competing to see which structure can hold the most weight.
Performance: requires the team to act, sing, and dance based on a given theme.
All brainstorming, building, painting, sewing, planning and fixing are done by the team members.
For each Long Term problem, every team can have a maximum of seven members, every solution a maximum of eight minutes, and the total cost of all materials in a solution must be under $125 to $145; the vehicle and technical problems are allotted higher amounts to cover required machine components.
Each of these limiting rules require participants to push their thinking capacities as they decide how best to use their skills, time, money and talents.
This year's New Canaan winners are:
Pet Project (Vehicle)
The Email Must Go Through (Technical)
ARTchitecture: The Musical (Theatrics)
Division III first place: NCHS team of Will Hennessy, Katrine Reddin, Taylor Ferguson, Riley Durkin, Amelia Schwartz, Sean Davidson and Arianne Norman.
It's How You Look at It (Classics)
The NCHS students created a musical tale of cereal characters -- Lucky, Cap'n Crunch and Toucan from Fruit Loops -- centered around a replica of St. Basel's Cathedral. The cathedral actually houses Snap, Crackle and Pop, who dispense milk from the cathedral as a fountain to the cold cereals. When the fountain stops working, the characters go on a quest to find the missing Snap, Crackle and Pop, portrayed as team-made puppets. The team used its original Queen song parodies as the basis for the story. Scenery and props embellished with cereal plus colorful costumes made a lighthearted, clever tale earning the top score at the state competition.
The Saxe Middle School sixth-grade team created a storybook solution to the classic problem "It's How You Look At It!," which required two main characters to whom normal behavior was either odd or ordinary based on two different scenes. A magic pen bestowed upon King Arthur by his good friend Merlin goes berserk when Arthur sets about writing a few classic fairy tales. The pen pulls the prince's lieutenant from "Cinderella" into the "Alice in Wonderland" where he attempts to try the glass slipper on the Cheshire Cat and that silly rabbit putters around muttering about being late. The pen then transports both characters to the "Cinderella" story on the night of the ball where the rabbit's dire warnings of tardiness help Cinderella avoid her pumpkin fate and the lieutenant finds his princess. Set design, as well original lyrics and dance numbers, helped the team take second place in its division.
With ground transportation, it will cost between $800 to $1,000 per student to attend the World Finals. Coaches and parents will incur and equal expense. Teams are exploring a few fundraising activities that, at a minimum, might enable them to cover the cost of their coaches' attendance and defray a small portion of their individual expenses.