Annual pilgrimage to Flagstaff for northern Arizona OMers

2013-02-24T05:00:00Z Annual pilgrimage to Flagstaff for northern Arizona OMers Arizona Daily Sun
February 24, 2013 5:00 am

"OMers," the affectionate nickname given to teammates and their coaches in Odyssey of the Mind, will soon be making their annual pilgrimage to Flagstaff for the 2013 Arizona Northern Region Tournament of Odyssey of the Mind. This creative problem solving program is so very fun, exciting and enriching that the experience of participation changes the lives and potential of the participants for life. Thinking "outside the box" is an Odyssey mantra for the approach to problem solving using divergent problem-solving skills that also help students work with others toward a common goal.

The Arizona Odyssey of the Mind Association and Flagstaff Unified School District are hosting this tournament at Flagstaff High School, Saturday, March 2, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the awards ceremony at 3 in the War Memorial Gym. First- and second-place teams will move onto the State Tournament on April 6 in Tucson. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

The tournament includes both short-term problem solutions, called Spontaneous, and Long-Term problem solutions performed by the teams. The Spontaneous Problem portion is performed behind closed doors with judges and teammates only. Coaches and families wait outside and won't know the solutions performed until after the competition. The Long-Term Problem solutions have been worked on since last fall. Age Divisions I through IV encompass third grades through college and compete in the following Long-Term Problems:

Problem 1, Vehicle: Pet Project

Problem 2, Technical: The email must go through

Problem 3, Classic: ARTchitecture: The Musical

Problem 4, Structures: Tumble-wood

Problem 5, Performance: It's how you look at it

The younger OMers are in the Primary Division and have their own special problem each year. This year is is: Primary (Kindergarten thru 2nd grade): Top Sea-cret Discoveries. They will perform in the new auditorium starting at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

To see a 10-minute video about Odyssey of the Mind, visit the national website at: experience.php

Some families may shy away from registering their children on a team because "Odyssey of the Mind" sounds like a program for only the most gifted kids. While "gifted" students tend to do well in Odyssey, all students can contribute. Odyssey of the Mind can teach us all to be more creative (Parent Coaches included):

-- All students, including "academically gifted" students, can learn to socialize more successfully.

-- Arts students can gain self confidence in writing, dancing, painting and performing their own creations.

-- Verbally inclined students gain experience, confidence and ability in writing scripts.

-- Humorous students can contribute in a constructive way by incorporating humor into the performance.

-- Mechanically inclined students learn to solve problem requirements by designing and building balsa wood structures, vehicles, and props.

-- Coaches can learn to keep from micromanaging their OMers. All of the work is done by the students. It is hands-on for the students, and hands-off for the coaches.

As in life, it takes all types, working as a team to achieve success in important projects and endeavors. The students learn to listen to the ideas of others without being critical. They try to find common ground, building political skills while doing so. In a time where school budgets are tight, and AIMS testing is emphasizing rote memorization, Odyssey of the Mind offers inexpensive self training in creative problem solving skills. This skill set is vitally important to helping our nation and world.

NASA sponsors Odyssey of the Mind because of the creative problem-solving skills that it teaches. NASA engineers, thinking on their feet, used these skills to save the Apollo 13 astronauts. They built an air filter from spare parts found aboard the Apollo space vehicle to keep themselves alive long enough to return home to their families. These skills are taught during the spontaneous problem competitions. NASA knows a good idea when they see it!

Please come view the competition at Flagstaff High School on March 2. This program is a valuable supplement to our kids' education that doesn't add to the budget misery while providing our kids with tools needed for the future. This program helps kids learn to solve real problems, in real time, while having real fun.

John McCartney is the Arizona Northern Region Odyssey of the Mind director. For more information, contact him at

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