Achieving and C(OM)peting


World Finals for Odyssey of the Mind did not begin with Wednesday’s Opening Ceremony at Michigan State University; five JP Stevens teams embarked on the journey several months ago at the first few meetings of the year, when teams began discussions on which problem to tackle and whom to include on this venture.

Now, more than half a year later, after fierce competition — JP’s own preliminary runoffs, the Regional Competition, and State Finals — 35 OMers reached the ultimate level: World Finals. From May 22 to May 25, students from fourteen countries and forty-five states gathered in East Lansing, Michigan for four days of competition and fun.

The JP teams arrived at 7 p.m. after a 13-hour bus ride. Michigan State University was already populated by thousands of other OMers aged 5 through 22, as Odyssey of the Mind operates through four different divisions: Division I for grades 1-5, II for grades 6-8, III for grades 9-12 and IV for college students.

Finals commenced with an elaborate opening ceremony in Michigan State University’s gigantic indoor stadium, which comfortably seated all those in attendance. Judges from each event, or “Problem,” spoke to the excited crowd, animations of each problem played, and audience members shouted their lungs out through a lengthy laser light show. The games had begun with a bang.

Odyssey of the Mind competitions are divided into long-term and spontaneous problems, worth 250 and 100 points, respectively. This year, JP Stevens sent five teams split across three long-term problems. Problem One, “Pet Project,” saw teams constructing different vehicles in order to fit through small spaces and knock down cans. Problem Three, “ARTchitecture: the Musical,” had teams create a skit in which three pieces of artwork disappeared and were then found to complete an architectural structure and Problem Four, “Tumblewood,” was a balsawood structure problem in which teams had to first roll their structure down a ramp and place it on a platform without physically touching it, after which it had to be tested to see how much weight it could support.

Odyssey of the Mind World Finals did not just conclude on the stage (or lecture hall, or gymnasium, or classroom). Over the course of the event, many competitors became close friends; this reporter met students from no fewer than 8 countries and 30 states. Often, people traded keepsakes in the form of shirts or commemorative pins. Pins, at first mention, may seem strange, but they’re often simple, portable mementos that can remind us of the people we meet and the friendships we make. To sophomore and four-time Worlds finalist, Alice Wang, pins are “an OM tradition and a way to get to know new people from different places and make new friends.” Alice explains, “I also remember how I received each pin or set, so they bring back a lot of memories.” Students typically carry pins on small OM towels, although some collections are extensive enough to require binders. Parents, chaperones, and even officials trade pins freely, coveting this year’s more prized sets. Along with pins, state and national shirts are traded and signed; New Jersey’s shirt this year was in the spirit of Hurricane Sandy and featured a construction theme. Many people traded shirts; other even requested signatures to acquire names and messages signed in various languages.

The closing ceremony began three days after the competition did, on Saturday, May 25. Teams returned once again to MSU’s indoor stadium, this time to hear the results of the Problems. Team B-1 received an honorable mention and 5th place, teams B-3 and C-3 tied for 22nd, team A-4 earned 10th place, and team C-4 earned 14th place. After announcing the victors, the 2013 Odyssey of the Mind season ended in another spectacular display of international camaraderie, with the crowd cheering on the fan-favorite, highly successful Polish teams. With World Finals over, teams filed out of the stadium for the after-parties. Senior Haolun Xu, who has attended world finals twice, could only laugh when asked his favorite part of the trip — from arrival in East Lansing to competing to meeting other OMers to the eventual conclusion and the JP teams’ departure, Odyssey of the Mind World Finals was jam-packed with fun and bonding throughout.

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