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Meeting of the Minds

Featured Photo from Meeting of the Minds

Two local schools place in the top three at this year’s Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, and one is the world’s very best

Thousands of spectators looked on as teams of students from all around the world took center stage at Michigan State University to compete in the 2019 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in May. More than 900 teams shared creative solutions to mind-boggling problems by putting their math, science, art, and performance skills to the test.  

If you’re not familiar with Odyssey of the Mind, the program has been bringing together students in friendly competition for 40 years. It’s a serious yet whimsical way for the younger generation to focus on a long-term project and exercise problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, creativity, and teamwork. Each team chooses one of five problems to solve and presents its solution in an eight-minute performance.

Over the course of the school year, students showcase their projects at various local and regional competitions. The best of the best then get a shot at the World Finals. At this year’s final showdown, several Seminole County schools were on top of their game, scoring incredibly high in their respective divisions. Teams from Seminole High took home first place, and Woodlands Elementary took home third place... in the WORLD

Take a look at this year’s winners from Seminole County Public Schools:

First-Place Winner: Seminole High School

“Give them eight minutes and a pile of wood, and Seminole High will take over the world,” says Kelly Meahl, the school’s team sponsor. The Seminole High Problem 4 team took on the Structure Toss challenge, in which teams have to create an original structure to support a lot of weight even after being tossed and tested for its strength. Their structure, made from only light balsa wood and glue, held an impressive 985 pounds. The students showcased their handiwork in an entertaining performance that made the testing of their structure’s stability part of the action.

“Armed with cardboard costumes, boundless creativity, and an honest-to-god, fully-functional, medieval-style trebuchet, they dominated the competition,” describes Kelly.

Meanwhile, Seminole High’s Problem 3 team put their heads together to solve the Classics Problem, which challenged them to recreate Leonardo da Vinci’s famous workshop and three of his inventions or works of art.

The team worked together for weeks crafting da Vinci’s The Last Supper entirely out of duct tape and building a life-size statue of Colossus and an ornithopter (an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings). They also devised a zany skit featuring a portrayal of da Vinci himself.

“The team’s use of a hologram projector and strong absurdist script impressed the judges, and they came in 12th in the world overall!” says Kelly. “Way to go, ‘Noles!”

Third-Place Winner: Woodlands Elementary 
It was all girl power for this Woodlands Elementary team of third and fourth graders. Together, the girls worked diligently for months to solve Problem 2: Hide in Plain Sight. Tasked with building a well-camouflaged mechanical creature, the team devised their idea and brought it to life through a fast-paced performance. They built a garbage can inhabited by their creature of choice, Bigfoot. Dressed in costume and narrated by one of the team members, the group told their story in a fairy-tale format describing how their creature navigates various situations using its special skill.   

“It was amazing to watch the girls collaborate and figure things out,” says coach Amanda Cummings, who worked alongside coach Jessica Lawrence. “They had no adult help in figuring out the problem, but as coaches, we help them find what they need for their ideas and the solutions they come up with. We recycled a lot of materials and basically our garages at home were destroyed! It was a complete shock to place third, but we’re so happy!”


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