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News : Education Apr 16, 2014 - 2:26:31 PM

Creativity Catapults Stamford Teams to Odyssey World Finals

By Stamford Public Schools

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The team from Turn of River Middle School and King Low Heywood schools. Turn of River Middle School: Christopher and Julien Matrullo, Hannah Nekritz, Arushi Mathur, Jack Hicks, Kevin Harrington King Low Heywood: Benjamin Hu Coach: Eric Matrullo (contributed photo)
Four Stamford teams displayed extraordinary creativity in the 33rd CT Odyssey of the Mind Tournament earning a place in the World Finals at Iowa State University next month. The students competed in Bristol, Connecticut, against over 170 teams from towns and cities across Connecticut. Qualifying to go to the World Finals is a once in a lifetime experience, allowing students to compete and exchange ideas with other teams from China, Singapore, Germany and other countries and states in the U.S.

The Stamford Youth Foundation program sent 11 teams to the state finals this year and experienced the strongest showing ever with 3 teams taking first place in their problem category and division; a second place finish and two in third. Eight of the 11 teams finished in 5th place or better. First place World Finalist include TOR/KLHT, Stillmeadow and Westover. Second place World Finalist: Hart. Third place – Bronze Medal: Scofield/Rippowam/Dolan and Springdale.

The team from Stillmeadow Elementary School: Left to right: Braeden Rubin, Ella Cognetti, Olivia Cognetti, Kristen Stops, Devon Cavaliere, Gavin Stops, Connor Tasik; Missing: Aryan Hassija (contributed photo)
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities which range from building mechanical devices to presenting interpretations of literary classics while incorporating the use of critical thinking skills, creativity and teamwork.

Teams of 5-7 students meet for several months to develop solutions to one of five long-term problems in categories such as constructing a vehicle, creating a new take on a classic, building a balsa wood structure, and solving a mechanical dilemma. The solution is presented in the form of an 8-minute performance at the state tournament. At this time, the students compete against other teams solving the same problem in their division.

The team from Westover Magnet Elementary School. From left to right: Luke Noonan, Jake Smith, Brynn Spingola, Kayla Craner, Preston Smith, Neya Krishnan, Aiden Neigler (contributed photo)
This year, problem challenges included the design, build, and propulsion of a team-created vehicle to pass a driver’s test; creation of a pop-up-style not-so-haunted “house” where four special effects have unintended results; and creation of a community that feels threatened by something in a location its members have never visited.

Throughout the year, teams also practice solving spontaneous problems and solve one spontaneous problem the day of the state and world tournaments. These problems fall into one of three categories: verbal, hands-on or a combination of both. Teams never know ahead of time which type of problem they will be required to solve, so it is an intense "think on your feet" experience.

Odyssey of the Mind is a unique program because it allows all kids to succeed, whether or not they are labeled educationally advantaged vs. disadvantaged or have high vs. low test scores. It is a wonderful example of what committed parents and community members can do to help enrich students.

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