By Suzanne Schmidt
When the Wiregrass Ranch High School Odyssey of the Mind team learned they had placed fourth in the world, they didn’t believe it.
Team members junior Anthony Jason (A. J.) Nardi, 17, sophomore Nathan Teindall, 16, sophomore Lindsey Cucore, 15, junior Joshua Harding, 17, sophomore Jesse Hu, 16, sophomore Lauren Brown, 16 and junior Rachel Jarding, 17 all said they were shocked to learn they placed fourth out of 46 teams in their division.
The team solved the column structure problem in division III where they had to design a structure made up of columns to support weight. They earned points based on the amount of weight their structure held, a skit they had to perform and a spontaneous problem.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students kindergarten through college. Students compete on teams where they apply their skills and creativity to solve problems from building mechanical devices to putting on plays. The Wiregrass team had to compete at the regional level then the state level to get in the world competition at Michigan State University.
“We used electromagnetic clamps to hold the structure,” Nardi said. “We had to build five individual columns and we had to build a device that would put the columns on the board without using our hands.”
The team’s eight-minute skit revolved around a parody of fairy tale characters and their issues.
“The skit had to include a lot of elements like we had to use recyclable materials and we were graded on the artistic value of our sign,” Brown said. “We did a parody of fairy tale characters for our skit. I was the Narcoleptic Beauty and Lindsey was the Girl Who Cried Time.”
Hu added that the skit was all about the fairy tale characters solving their own problems.
“They were having a group therapy session with Humpty Dumpty where they were trying to solve their problems,” Hu said. “At the end there was a huge plot twist where Humpty Dumpty is evil and they decided to solve their own problems.”
The team also earned points for their work solving a spontaneous problem. They said according to their point totals, the spontaneous problem is what helped them place fourth because the column they designed did not hold as much weight as some of the other teams did. They placed ninth based just on how much weight their structure held and they placed third based on just the spontaneous problem.
Harding said his favorite part about the competition was meeting people.
“It was nice to meet other teams from different parts of the world,” Harding said. “Competing was exhilarating. You are so nervous because you don’t know what is going to happen. Anything could go wrong. It was the most surprising thing ever. I didn’t think we even placed in the top six.”
Hu said meeting all the different people from different cultures taught him something. Teams come from as far as Singapore, Poland and South Korea and from all over the United States like California and New York.
“It was cool meeting the people,” Hu said. “We are all from different places but we are all the same kind of people.”
The team was the most important part of the experience for Brown.
“This was my first year going to world with this team,” Brown said. “It was an experience I will never forget. It is fun because you have to solve problems on the spot.”
One of the biggest things about going to the competition for Nardi is the pin trading.
“Every state makes their own set of pins,” Nardi said. “The Florida pins were about theme parks and surfers this year. You get your pins and you can walk around and talk to people and trade pins with them. I have pins that I will remember forever how I got them.”
Cucore said she would not want to do Odyssey of the Mind if she was not with her current teammates.
“I liked how much our team has come together,” Cucore said. “Most of us on the team have been doing this together for years.”
Teindall said he learned a valuable lesson.
“I learned that teamwork is important,” Teindall said. “I hope I can apply this to other areas of my life. It was a good experience.”
The team was able to raise a portion of the money with fundraisers like Beef ‘O’ Brady’s nights, and a Sam’s Club cookout as well selling candy. The rest of the money the teens had to raise themselves from their parents.
Jardine said she always has fun at the competitions.
“I think everyone should try it at least once,” Jardine said. “It is a great experience and there is nothing else like it. It is a great way to express your talents. It teaches a lot of life skills and you are surrounded by a lot of great people. I have been doing it since the fifth-grade because I love it.”
For more information, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com.
Pasco County’s Odyssey teams at World:
–Wesley Chapel Elementary School ranked 13 in Food Court Division I
–Double Branch Elementary School ranked 27 in Column Structure Division I
–Weightman Middle School ranked 10 in Food Courte Division II
–Mittye P. Locke Elementary School ranked 14 in Discovered Treasures Division I
–J. W. Mitchell High School ranked 16 in Return to the Gift of Flight Division III