Odyssey of the Mind

Participants for Odyssey of the Mind stood for clips of each country’s national anthem played during the opening ceremony in Hilton Coliseum May 23, 2012.

Thaddeus Mast

For many students ranging from kindergarten to high school and college, Odyssey of the Mind is a great opportunity to stretch their creativity to the limit while also meeting others from around the world. This year, the World Finals for the problem solving competition will be held at Iowa State, from May 23 to May 26.

While an outside events company is supplying most of the event coordinators and workers, some students have taken up the Student Job Posting’s position to help out as well. They will be helping to set up and tear down the events for this competition, which is back in Ames for the seventh time to hold the World Finals.

“Iowa State has been doing this since 1990,” said Alan Strohmaier, associate director of Iowa’s Odyssey of the Mind. “The last time the World Final was held here was 2009.”

The World Final will bring around 15,000 to 17,000 people to Ames and the surrounding areas. Every dorm room available has been rented out for the 815 teams competing. Fifteen countries will be represented at this year’s final, although 27 countries currently have active Odyssey of the Mind programs. There are shuttles going from airports within a 300 mile radius, including Omaha, Minneapolis and Kansas City, Mo., to Ames to accommodate all of the teams.

“It’s a big logistics nightmare,” Strohmaier said.

Iowa State, however, is one of the few places that can handle this kind of event.

“I don’t care where we go or where we do finals, everyone says ‘I love Iowa State, when can we go back?” Strohmaier said. “People in Iowa are just warm and welcoming. Here they treat the people who participate like they are people and they are friendly towards them. Very few universities can hold Odyssey of the Mind.”

Odyssey of the Mind is “the premier problem solving competition of the world,” as Strohmaier said. The World Finals are the culmination of a year’s worth of work put into a single problem, ranging from building a vehicle that shows emotions or a structure made of balsa wood that can hold hundreds of pounds to putting on a unique version of play or making a musical version of Hamlet. Strohmaier, working with the organization since 1987, tells of some of the more interesting devices made to solve the problems presented.

“I have seen vehicles that have been made entirely of coke cans. Vacuums have been made into robots with computer screens on them. One of the judges here this year currently holds the world record for the structure problem, holding over 1,400 pounds.”

Tracy Hoekstra, coach of the Johnston High School team and coordinator for all of the Johnston teams, has been to over 12 World Finals over the years, both as a student and a coach. She describes what is exciting for the students involved and why Iowa State is the place to hold the World Finals.

“The climate is exciting; it’s fun, and they get to meet people from around the world. In addition to enjoying the experience, they also want to be successful.”

“Iowa State does a fantastic job, in my opinion the best job, hosting World Finals. They have fantastic facilities, great food and friendly staff.”

The opening ceremonies began at 7:30 Wednesday night, and the World Finals will conclude at the Awards Ceremony Saturday night at 7:30, with a dance for students involved to be held afterwards.

Iowa Odyssey of the Mind World Finals Team Competition Schedule

Team Number Problem Division Long Term Spontaneous
West Central Valley 33846 3 3 Thurs. 11:45 Sat. 2:00
Sacred Heart School 13318 3 2 Thurs. 12:10 Fri. 1:42
New Hampton 789 1 3 Thurs. 2:51 Fri. 9:44
Johnston High School 26915 1 3 Thurs. 3:09 Fri. 9:26
Sacred Heart School 13318 3 1 Thurs. 3:40 Fri. 4:56
DeWitt Central 39000 2 2 Fri. 9:02 Sat. 10:47
St. Francis of Assisi 36449 4 1 Fri. 9:17 Sat 9:14
Southeast Polk 8961 5 3 Fri. 12:10 Sat. 9:03
Horizon Elementary School 35277 2 1 Fri. 1:31 Sat 9:09
Sacred Heart School 13318 2 1 Fri. 1:49 Sat. 9:27
Horizon Elementary School 35277 5 1 Fri. 3:08 Sat. 10:43
Timber Ridge 38215 5 1 Fri. 3:26 Sat. 11:01
DeWitt Central 40692 3 3 Sat. 9:48 Sat. 1:42
Summit Middle School 37478 1 2 Sat. 9:53 Fri. 9:28
Southeast Polk 8961 2 3 Sat. 11:26 Fri. 11:09
Sacred Heart School 13318 5 2 Sat. 1:45 Fri. 8:03
Summit Middle School 37478 5 2 Sat. 2:03 Fri. 8:21
Marcus 38678 5 2 Sat. 2:21 Fri. 8:39