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Odyssey Of The Mind Competition Spurs Creativity And Excitement For World Finals

Published: April 14, 2018

Newtown will be represented by two local Odyssey of the Mind teams at the World Finals competition next month. Multiple teams from Newtown took part in the state level of the competition, which was held at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven on March 17. The World Finals is the next stage of the competition, and it will be held at Iowa State University between May 23 and 26.

According to Odyssey of the Mind, it is the largest international creative problem-solving competition in the world. For Odyssey of the Mind, students teams work together to solve different problems presented by the program each year. While each team is coached, no outside assistance is allowed from the coach, teachers, or parents in solving the problems. According to Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind, “Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and world level.” Teams compete in five age divisions to solve a “spontaneous problem” and a “long-term problem.”

Newtown High School Odyssey of the Mind team coach Carol Shuman reported that her team came in first at the state competition, earning a gold medal, and it won the Jill Riggles Award for the highest score in the spontaneous portion of the competition. The team is planning to attend the World Finals in Iowa, and it will be the third year in a row that the team will attend World Finals. The team is not planning to fundraise this year to attend World Finals.

“The team really enjoys seeing how their solution to the long-term problem stacks up against others at the state competition,” Ms Shuman said by e-mail recently. “They also enjoy watching the younger teams present their solutions.”

Students on Ms Shuman’s team are seniors Julia Shuman, Rachel Tramposch, Teddy Wojcik, and Tristan Filiato; junior Hailey Pankow; sophomore Nick Preszler; and freshman Jacob Shuman.

Reed Intermediate School coach Debra Sullivan’s team earned a silver medal in its division and the team is planning to raise funds to attend World Finals next month. She said her team is “so excited to be going to World Finals.” This was the team’s first year competing.

Her team members are fifth graders Kaila Sullivan, Lily Ammerman, Sadie Baimel, Jessica Powers, Bennett Quinn, Martin Dunn, and Charles Dunn. The team has set up a fundraising account online at According to Ms Sullivan, the team also has plans to sell maple syrup locally, coordinate pajama days and school-based events, and coordinate local performances ahead of World Finals.

Ms Sullivan said her team needs Newtown’s help to attend World Finals, as going to the competition in Iowa will be expensive.

“Odyssey enables a group of individuals to truly learn from one another,” Ms Sullivan said in an e-mail recently. “The input of each team member is considered, debated, and congratulated, whether it was accepted into the performance or not. It builds lifetime skills for our future leaders.”

Other teams that participated in the state level of the competition were coached by Gioia Macey, Kerri Jackson and Carolina Castellano, Heather Chappa, Robert Mauri, Brenda Soriano, and Ryan Knaggs.

Ms Macey’s Reed Intermediate School team came in third at the state level of the competition. Her team members are Dylan Macey, Brady Macey, Jack Chappa, Kyle Ruddy, Luke Kellerman, Arion Polozani, and Alex Roman. The team, according to Ms Macey, built a vehicle to incorporate into its solution for the long-term problem. This was her team’s third year competing together.

“I think most people do not realize all of the time and effort that goes into preparing for the competition,”

Ms Macey said. “We met two to three times a week for two-plus hours each time for the last six months. It takes a lot of dedication and creativity to participate at the competitive level.

“I was really proud of the my team,” Ms Macey continued. “They came up with an incredibly complex story line relating back to Greek Mythology and incorporated it into our vehicle competition. They were also very dedicated to preparing for the spontaneous portion of the event, which is half of the overall score and no one gets to see it. Odyssey is a truly incredible experience for these kids.”

Ms Jackson said her team of Newtown Middle School and Reed students placed ninth at the state level. The team most enjoyed performing its long-term problem, and this was its fourth year competing.

“Odyssey of the Mind is all about thinking outside the box and creative problem solving. It helps develop skills that are helpful for everyone,” said Ms Jackson.

Ms Jackson’s team members are Paige Jackson, Eleanor Glassman, Melissa Schnee, Brooke Kinsey, Emily Jackson, Olivia Guizzo, and Grant Ricks.

Ms Chappa’s Head O’ Meadow Elementary School and Reed team also placed ninth at the state level. Her team members are Noel McLeod, Emma Chappa, Meghan Bailey Mason, and Riana Mason.

“I was very proud of these 9- and 10-year-old kids,” said Ms Chappa. “They were very nervous before their performance and being spontaneous, but they worked very well together, and did a fantastic job, especially for their first time.”

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