On Tuesday, May 24, seven Averill Park High School students jumped in the back of a van to begin their 17-hour long journey to Ames, Iowa for the World Finals of Odyssey of the Mind. Juniors Jacob Crupi, Isla Multunas, Christian Romer, Katie Doran, Tyler Strock and Tyler Michaels, and sophomore Cecelia Colton made up the team that placed sixth overall at the World Finals when all was said and done.
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving competition where teams are given a choice of problems and must prepare an eight-minute skit that features several necessary elements. Each problem also has something unique to it, whether it be more theatrical or mechanical. Averill Park’s chosen problem required them to build a balsa wood structure that held as much weight as possible while the skit was simultaneously performed. The twist for the structure this year was that it had to contain smaller copies of the structure nested within it (such as a set of matryoshka dolls), and the set of structures had to contain a tiny character at the center of them all. The character had to be revealed from the center of the structure before weights could be placed and had to be represented by a team member in their performance.
The skit had a required theme of storage this year, and the AP team decided to create a performance based on technological storage. The aforementioned tiny character was a virus disguised as an antiviral software to destroy the iPad that a young protagonist just received. The virus also downloaded parodies of popular apps onto the device to try to scam the kid, including Algebra Dash, Instapound, and Happy Birds. The balsa wood structure weighed in at 14.9 grams (with a maximum weight of 15 grams and a minimum height of 8 inches) and held 650 pounds, only failing due to a faulty piece of wood in one of the columns.
In addition to the skit and the structure, OotM teams must also be ready for a spontaneous problem. As the team steps into a room with four judges, they are explained what the problem is and are given only a few minutes to think before having to give a total of 35 responses for the problem. The score for spontaneous is curved, with the highest scoring team getting 100 points and every other team earning a fraction of points based on how they performed. After only giving one less creative response than the leading team, Averill Park earned a curved score of 99.28 /100.
In order to be able to make their journey, the AP team needed fundraising to lower the cost of room and board, along with gas prices to travel halfway across the country. The students decided to host a variety of fundraising efforts, including a presentation on what the program is, a fundraising night at Recovery Room, and a 16 Handles fundraiser. Many Averill Park residents also gave generous donations to a team Venmo, allowing the team to travel for a reduced price. The students on the OotM team would like to thank everyone who donated and helped the fundraising efforts; without all of your help it would not have been possible for the team to travel and compete.
After their long travels, the team spent four days at Iowa State University enjoying what the competition had to offer. Every state has a unique set of pins, and trading pins is a unique activity that is widely advertised throughout the competition. Students also met teams from other countries, making friends with a three-person team from Michigan and enjoying meals with their friends and family. The team watched schools from other problems perform, seeing Hamilton-esque musicals and circus shenanigans contained within eight-minute skits. On Saturday night the closing ceremony began, where teams from four different countries (sadly lower than previous years due to lingering travel restrictions) and many different states anxiously awaited to see how they fared. The Averill Park team was ecstatic to hear that they placed sixth at the competition, giving them a spotlight and a moment of recognition before the 600 other teams in the crowd. After announcing the rest of the winners, a video was played showing a trailer for next year’s problems, exciting members from every team as new ideas began to form. The next morning, the AP team packed their bags and left Iowa State University for their long trek back to New York.
Averill Park’s team returned from where they left on Monday afternoon, nearly a full week since their departure. They were greeted by family supporting their success as the team returned to take a well-deserved nap. The Averill Park team is now waiting in eager anticipation for next year’s problems to be released so they can get a head start on the competition and are trying to help the district be more involved in the program. If you are interested in joining the club feel free to reach out to any of the team members; there are levels of competition for every grade level and the team would love to help everyone interested get involved!
— Written by team member Tyler Michaels