Will Bass has seen how much his younger siblings enjoyed participating in the Odyssey of the Mind competition at their elementary schools.
However, the charter at Peachtree Middle School, where Will is a seventh grader, does not allow participation in Odyssey of the Mind, according to Will’s mother Karen Bass. But that didn’t stop her from getting her son in on the fun.
“I just found seven kids and formed a team,” Karen Bass said.
Sponsored by the Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association, Bass’ team not only participated, it won. The team is headed to the international finals May 26-29 at Michigan State University. To qualify for the international competition, the team finished second at a regional competition at Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, then placed second in the state competition in Columbus.
“I’m really excited,” said team member Jack Jarrell, a seventh-grader at St. Martin’s. “It’s just cool getting to go there. I’m not really worried if we win or not. And I get to miss the last week of school.”
Other team members are Anna Grace Nall, Max Noto and Kendall Lowery, all seventh graders at Peachtree Middle; Jennifer Kiser, a sixth grader at Peachtree Middle; and Sofia Gonzalo, a sixth grader at St. Jude.
“I want to place, but we’re not super in-your-face competitive,” Will Bass said. “Just getting to go is fun.”
All it took was a few phone calls from Karen Bass and her son, and the team was set.
“All but two of them had done it at some points, but it had been a few years since most had been on a team,” Karen Bass said.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international problem-solving competition for children from kindergarten to college. Team members work on their own to solve a predetermined problem. The team then presents the solution at the competitions. The competitions are divided by age and problem choice – there are five problems to choose from.
Also, there is a spontaneous component, where the team has to come up with answers on the spot for problems they have not seen before.
Bass’ team chose the Classics category, and the problem was “Discovered Treasures.”
“They had to create a character and discover real treasures,” Karen Bass said. “They chose the Easter Island heads, then they had to go into the future and discover something built after 1900.”
The team created a pirate called Pink Beard, made costumes, wrote songs, created an eight-minute skit and built the treasures. In addition to the Easter Island heads, the team chose the London Eye as its second discovery. The team used a bicycle wheel and plastic fruit cup containers to replicate the giant Ferris wheel.
The spending limit on the project is $125 and each team had to solve the problem with no help from its coach.
“They did an amazing job,” Karen Bass said. “The hard part is if you don’t know the problem and watch the skit, it’s kind of stupid. But if you know what you’re looking at, it helps to be able to understand it. They came up with all the ideas and built everything on their own. They did a great job.”
The team presents the same solution at each level of competition, but can tweak their presentation.
The competition usually starts in September, just after the beginning of the school year. Bass put her team together and started in December, but the group worked well together and easily made up for lost time.
“You’ve got to be kind of well-rounded, but everybody has their strengths,” Will Bass said. “I was real good at the physical aspects like the public speaking parts.”
Jarrell, who participated as a second-grader at Austin Elementary, was eager to be back on a team and knew most of the members.
“There are a lot of creative kids on the team,” Jarrell said. “I think I was one of the better actors and helped with some of the funnier scenes. But there was a lot to do and we all did a lot of it. We worked well together.”