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17 // Odyssey of the Mind

It’s been a couple years since I last got to compete in Odyssey of the Mind. It was one of my favorite parts of growing up in Moon, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of the program. To catch anyone up to speed, Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is a creative problem-solving competition that involves teams of 5-7 kids (elementary school to high school, Divisions 1-3 respectively) who solve 1 of 5 long-term problems, plus a spontaneous problem on competition day.

I started OM in third grade, I believe. I was on a team with a really random smattering of kids from school. I think the only reason I was in it was because they promoted it a lot through Challenge, this gifted-program that they put me in while I was in elementary school. That first year, our skit consisted of aliens, pioneers, space, chipmunks and time traveling. What we were trying to solve? Beats me. But I was hooked after that.

I got really lucky with my teams while I was in OM. By the end of my run in the program, I was able to say I had been a World Finalist, which is no easy feat, and that I was also a Ranatra Fusca award recipient. Since I’ve been out of OM, I’ve always wanted to get involved again. Judging the competition seemed like the obvious next step.

My friend Morgan and I decided to try our hands at judging this year. She was in Problem 3, I was in Problem 5. I really wanted to be a judge for long-term or for Style, but I was eventually given the role of ‘Staging Judge.’ The Staging judge gets the kids ready for the competition and is the first person they greet on their journey through the eight minute gauntlet of the long-term problem. I had to go through all their forms with them, make them less nervous and make sure they’re all set to go.

I had a really good time today. Being a judge is stressful and crazy (you deal with a lot of hyper aware parents and coaches questioning your every move) but so rewarding all the same. I was honored to be able to calm down a very scared 5th grader, joke around with a flamboyant 8th grader and make a new friend with my co-judging partner.

Next year, I definitely want to judge again. I’d love to be able to watch some performances the next time around and feel more involved. But for my first run, can’t complain. I just love everything about OM and I hope I’m able to stay involved for years to come.

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