Last year was my first experience with Odyssey of the Mind, or OTM as we like to call it for short. I was assistant coaching a team of 5 boys and one girl and as I documented last year, the problem was to build a structure out of balsa wood—of a very specific size and weight—that could hold as much weight as possible before crushing.
As I wrote last year, OTM is a wonderful experience for kids and it’s why I came back to coach again this year. Our team of 4 boys and 3 girls works very well together. Having an almost equal number of girls has really made a huge difference. I often just sit back and let the little gals whip those boys into shape. Our problem this year is to make three vehicles, powered by three different means, which have to deliver a total of 9 parts to an assembly area. Once there, the parts are assembled into a pet and the pet must do a trick. All of this has to be done in the context of an 8-minute skit.
Pretty simple, right?
My team has been getting together every week since November to work on this. Kids have gotten together in smaller groups to work on various aspects of the problem. My son has spent hours working on a balloon-powered car that can travel the required 10 feet.
We had had a pretty tough practice last week. The team was stumped by many of the practice spontaneous problems I threw at them (build a 8″ tower of pasta capable of holding a box with weights using only spaghetti, rigatoni, mini marshmallows, straws, and 5 address labels). This week I felt I needed to get them back on track and give them a little boost of the spirits. So I did what any good mother/coach would do: I made cupcakes.
Yesterday at practice I saw the kids really come together on an idea for the skit and it was so rewarding! After weeks of discussing, debating and shooting down ideas, they finally seemed to rally around one. (I think there are some technical challenges with the execution of their idea, but as coach your job is not to give ideas or direction but to try to get them to figure it out on their own—hard to do with 5th graders).
Competition Day is March 9 so we still have some time to refine and practice the script. Already we are way ahead of last year. Helps that many of the kids and the coach have one year of experience under their belts.
And while there’s no need to get all fierce about it, I’ll admit, I’m hoping for 4th place.