Odyssey of the Mind: Creativity unleashed

  • Procter Terrace's from left to right Braden Leslie, 9, Riley Warren, 11, and Cooper Fox, 12, perform during the Odyssey of the Mind's , "ARTchitecture: The Musical Div. II," at Santa Rosa High School, Saturday, February 23, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

The grounds of Santa Rosa High School were taken over Saturday by kids in jet packs, grass skirts, togas, sparkly gowns, painted faces, swirling robes and all manner of kooky headwear.

A walk through the campus was a bit like being backstage at the theater — various cardboard structures, hanging backdrops, makeshift buildings and creatures stashed here and there amid weird assortments of props.

A gathering of Omers is like that: a little odd, always noisy, extremely colorful and heavily reliant upon duct tape, hot glue, PVC pipe, bedding and papier mach?

Odyssey Of The Mind


But the underlying enthusiasm and energy of the crowd is palpable. These are excited kids.

Odyssey of the Mind — OM for the initiated — is a creative problem-solving competition. Speed and physical strength are displaced by smarts and ingenuity that participants apply to problems contrived to provoke invention and teamwork while integrating knowledge and performance into one.

Saturday marked the annual Redwood Region tournament, the first step for top teams seeking to reach the state and then world competitions.

"It's a chance to be creative," said Veronica Morris, 7, a second-grader at the Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts, "and it's really inspirational. It just shows you that you can do a lot of things if you try."

The international Odyssey organization issues a selection of official problems each year in various categories. They focus, for instance, on designing a mechanical contraption required to perform certain functions, building tiny balsa wood structures supporting hundreds of pounds, or highlighting examples of classic literature or art - all in the course of a skit with certain required elements and without parents' input or significant expense. There are time limits, too.

One problem this year required teams to build a vehicle to transport parts from one location to another for assembly into some kind of pet animal that could then perform a trick.

In another, characters had to represent parts in an email system that could deliver messages with different attributes through a central server and a spam filter.

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