By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs
Jacksonville, Fla. (NNS) -- Several Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast employees participated in the annual Manatee Region, Odyssey of the Mind, Regional Tournament held March 5 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I started with Odyssey of the Mind in 2004 when my daughter joined a team," said Trish Loop, environmental engineer with Publics Works Department Mayport. "I was an assistant coach for a few years and then started coaching. In 2012, I started volunteering as a judge and have been doing this ever since."
NAVFAC Southeast and PWD Mayport employees have volunteered at the Regional Odyssey of the Mind Tournament for more than a decade. This year Cheryl Mitchell, Joann Mason, Robert Strickland, Lisa Goulet Williams, and Trish Loop and others volunteered to serve as judges for the tournament.
Teams compete in one of three divisions (elementary, middle or high school) and present their solutions to the judging team in one of five categories including vehicle, technical, structural, theatrical and literary classics problems. The teams are scored on the creativity, innovation and quality of their solutions. Students apply creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.
"This is my second year volunteering. Last year I was placed in the 'spontaneous' category," said Lisa Goulet Williams, PWD Mayport construction manager. "Teams are given a verbal, verbal/hands-on, or hands-on problems to solve and volunteers serve as judges and timekeepers. This year and last, I served as a timekeeper and retrieving the teams when it was their turn to do their problem."
One of the hands-on problems included teams building bridges using all or some of the following items: books, straws, paper plates, quarters, clay, tooth picks and string. A 12 inch by 12 inch square was outlined in tape on a table and the students were required to build a bridge, using all or some of the objects, a minimum of 12 inches wide in about 6 minutes. The bridge was required to support as many quarters as it could and be as wide as it could but not less than 12 inches. The teams were judged on teamwork, creativity, the width of the bridge, and the amount of quarters supported before failure.
Judges and other volunteers were as creative as the students during the event.
"We are encouraged to wear funny hats to make the event more fun," said Williams. "This year I decided to put together a mime outfit and judge as a mime. I thought it would be a lot of fun and the kids loved it too."
For example, with the long term problems, teams prepare a skit they present in eight minutes, including set up time. They make their own costumes, props and write their own scripts. Certain things must be included in each skit and are scored well if it contains them all. More points are added for creativity and cleverness.
"The skits are usually funny and pull in current events," said Loop. "I enjoy watching them and seeing how creative the kids are at using recycled materials as part of their costumes and part of their sets."
Williams said she loves interacting with the kids and seeing how creative they can be. "Their ideas are limitless and very interesting. I will definitely volunteer again next year."
The winning teams will represent the Manatee Region at the State Tournament April 9 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Odyssey of the Mind is an international nonprofit organization that promotes creative problem solving, innovative thinking and teamwork for students ages kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level.
Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program. It is truly a worldwide competition. Participants include teams from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Czech Republic, DoDS Europe, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and practically every state in the U.S. The annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals is an event to behold. It embodies the international spirit of creativity.