It’s a Virtual Odyssey
Congratulations to the two teams from Viera High School that placed at the 2020 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. To do this under any circumstances would be amazing, but given the constraints of the pandemic, even more so.
One team finished ninth, another 50th, in different categories. And as their couch, I’m proud to share their story.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international competition featuring performance-based solutions to problems across various categories. Some are more mechanical, some more theoretical. Students from elementary through high school (and a few college teams) choose their problem to solve and begin preparing their performances early in the school year.
There are limits on the amount of money that can be spent on projects ($130), a strict time limit (8 minutes), limited participation by parents and teachers, and the required elements include poetry, dance, acting, and even the construction of elaborate props and costumes.
After failing to advance to the World Finals last year, the same teams again selected a problem that played to their strengths and then built, painted, sewed, wrote, and rehearsed in anticipation of the 2020 regionals at Viera High School this past February.
One team chose a problem with a more theatrical solution and concentrated on costumes, script and set pieces. The other team has strong engineering talent and chose a problem utilizing more interactive props and mechanical devices to impress the judges.
After February’s regionals, both teams again advanced to state competition in Orlando. Then COVID-19 hit.
The state competition was converted to a review process for both teams to compete virtually in the World Finals. Part of the final review was to submit videos of team performances, and by luck, I happened to make a video of each team’s performance at regionals.
Those videos were only intended for both groups to critique themselves, but without those chance recordings, the teams would not have been able to compete. Social distancing mandates, school closures and rules would have prohibited the teams from making the required video submission.
After great results from the state review in March, both teams worked virtually to compete in worlds. It was a spontaneous competition where judges gave a problem with 20 minutes to solve verbally in a live scenario online.
That these 12 students managed their classwork in trying times and still had the energy and passion for a massively complicated and time-intensive extracurricular pursuit is a tribute to their dedication and speaks well of their future, and ours.
The teams’ coach, Dr. Steven Hicks, is a teacher in Viera High School’s Academy of Communication and Design.