Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Odyssey of the Mind

Brandon was invited to participate in an "Odyssey of the Mind" (OM) team this year. We didn't know anything about it. The coaches recruited B in the fall, saying that they needed a smart, funny, creative boy to join their team. It sounded perfect for him!

If you're like us and don't know anything about OM, here is what we have learned. It is an international education program that focuses on creative problem-solving. A team is made up of as many as seven students. There are teams from elementary (Div I), middle (Div II), and high schools (Div III) that compete. (Actually, I heard that there are college OM teams, too,but there were none at the meet we attended.) There are two parts to the competition: a spontaneous portion and a long-term problem. For the spontaneous portion, the kids are given either a verbal, hands-on, or combination question by judges and they are awarded points depending on how well they answer. For the long-term problem, teams choose one of five areas and work for months on complete it. Some of the problems are technical (building a vehicle) and others are performance (writing and performing a skit). Brandon's team chose to do the skit. They had to write the script, build the set, design their costumes, memorize their lines, and perform in front of the judges and a room full of fans.

His team has been meeting weekly since October and their first big competition was this past weekend. It was a regional tournament, with schools from all over the northern part of NC.

Getting out some morning jitters

 Ready to get going!

 Having never attended a tournament before, we weren't sure what to expect. But it was huge! There were over 70 teams competing. The parking lot was packed. What a fun little subculture that we knew nothing about.

No coaches or parents are allowed in the room for the spontaneous question. The kids said they felt good about how it went. Brandon said it was so easy, "It was like a kindergarten question."

Then they got into costume and were ready for their performance.
Waiting for showtime.

The skit went great! I had been to one dress rehearsal and they improved so much in just a week or two since then. They were funny, spoke clearly, and seemed to be having a great time.

In costume.
What a young-looking bunch of old people.

The judges came and asked them questions at the end.

After the performance, we all headed out to lunch together.
It gave me a great chance to observe the social life of middle schoolers.
They hardly talk to each other.
They each sat their with their ipod or iphone.
I thought it was sad.
But, they seemed very content.

Andrew and I had fun getting to know some of the parents.
We had actual conversations with them. So old school.

In the early evening, we all met back up for the awards ceremony.
Our division and problem were the VERY last award to be announced.
Poor Andrew could NOT handle sitting in bleachers for an hour and a half.
Standing on the sidelines seemed to be fine, though.

Anxiously awaiting the announcement...

We won first place!  Woo hoo!
The kids were thrilled and we were so happy for them!

In the background, you can catch a glimpse of how many people were there.
And that was after many teams left when their division winners were announced.

Brandon has had a great time with these coaches and kids. 
I'm glad that after losing every single basketball game on TWO different teams
this season, he is able to have a taste of success with OM.
Now they get to attend the state tournament next month.
Looking forward to another fun adventure!


  1. That sounds like such an awesome organization! Now I want to look into if there's something like that around here. Great job, Brandon!

  2. What a fantastic opportunity for Brandon. Way to go! These pictures made me grin. He is awesome and makes a very handsome old man! XO
    Grandma Sweat

  3. Way to go Brandon! This sounds so fun!

  4. What a cool thing to do. And first place! Their skit looks like it was a lot of fun, and Brandon's looking so grown up.