Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 25, 2013

OM challenges students to be creative

TRAVERSE CITY — The Odyssey of the Mind Region 3 tournament challenges more than 250 students to be their creative best.

The annual regional competition is scheduled for March 2 at East Middle School and will field 49 teams. Teams are comprised of students in grades K-12 and will present solutions to long-term and spontaneous problems.

Students compete within four age divisions in the creative problem-solving competition, the oldest in the world.

The all-day tournament is open to the public and tournament organizers welcome community participation, in part hoping to spark additional interest in the international competition.

Region 3 tournament director Jamie Wheelock has been involved with Odyssey of the Mind for 26 years and has served in her current role for five. She began when her daughter joined a team as a second grader. Year after year she comes back, drawn by how the program’s teamwork teaches compromise, consideration, toleration and compassion.

To Wheelock, Odyssey of the Mind is an invaluable investment for students and schools.

“For less than $200, a school could sponsor 15 teams, making this a very affordable extra-curricular activity for the kids,” she said.

At the tournaments, judges evaluate each team’s performance, both during the problem presentation and through discussion afterward. The top scorers in each of the five problems advance to state level competition in April, which this year will be held at Northwestern Michigan College.

The tournament’s 75 volunteer judges relish the excited looks on the faces of participants as they eagerly share about their project: how they came up, designed and implemented their ideas. Points are given for outside-the-box thinking, as well as for meeting specific problem requirements and goals.

“They are excited to tell you about it and sometimes they tell you more about the ways they found out things didn’t work,” Wheelock said.

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