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Students Headed to Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

May 01, 2018 05:46PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Clockwise from top left: MBMS team, Pacific team, Pennekamp team.

Three teams of students from Pennekamp Elementary, Pacific Elementary, and Manhattan Beach Middle School will travel to Iowa State University on May 23 to participate in the World Finals of Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving competition.

They will join more than 800 teams of students from more than 20 different countries and nearly each U.S. state to showcase their creativity, problem-solving skills, engineering ingenuity and teamwork. The Manhattan Beach teams advanced to the World Finals after capturing California state Odyssey of the Mind championships in each of their divisions in March in Riverside.

The teams had worked for nearly six months to undertake two different kinds of the long-term problem challenges created by Odyssey of the Mind.

The Pacific team drafted, edited, and produced a humorous, science fiction-themed skit where a group of aliens meet up at an intergalactic hang-out to refuel and recharge before embarking on a space treasure hunt. Along with brainstorming and writing, students had to meet more than 50 very specific criteria outlined, which required substantial editing to accommodate. All work had to be done with no outside assistance from their coach, parents, teachers or others. This also included the creation of a set, props and costumes from materials with a modest $125 budget.

The teams from Pennekamp and MBMS each worked on a STEAM-based problem that fused engineering and creative arts. For this problem, both teams needed to prepare an 8-minute performance as well as a 15g balsa wood structure that could sustain the greatest weight possible. The structures then had to be turned into animals and “fed” with team-designed food.

The teams wrote original scripts, created all of their own props, scenery, and costumes; researched, designed, and built balsa wood towers; and practiced teamwork and creativity - all with no outside assistance.

At the state competition, MBMS’s structure held 640 pounds and Pennekamp’s structure held 667 pounds, helping propel each school to a first place finish in both the elementary and middle school divisions. Side note: The teams have a family connection, as there are two sets of siblings across the two teams.

In addition to their work on the long-term problem solutions, all three teams also practiced spontaneous problem solving, in which they were presented with a verbal question or hands-on task and had to form on-the-spot creative responses or solutions.

The students competed in the LA Basin Regional Tournament in Thousand Oaks in late February where they were each awarded first place for their problem and division, earning them a spot at the state Odyssey of the Mind Competition at University of California Riverside in late March. There, each team placed first in their division based on achieving the highest combined scores for the spontaneous competition and long-term problem solutions.

“Odyssey is such a great learning experience for all of the kids in so many different ways, including self-confidence, teamwork, and STEAM. I'm constantly amazed by what kids are capable of when given the responsibility and support for solving a problem,” said Pennekamp and MBMS coach Brian Fan. “We are super excited for this opportunity to represent Manhattan Beach and California at the World Finals and to also learn from all of the other teams.”

Over at Pacific Elementary, Michelle Lautanen is a three-year coaching veteran. "[The students] have always worked very hard and have been super dedicated. Plus, they’re very funny and creative," said Lautanen. "They’ve taken advantage of all Odyssey of the Mind has to offer: they’ve learned to work as a team and think on their feet; be responsible, positive, and assertive; and yet not forget to laugh and enjoy the moment. Of course, it’s especially nice to win the competitions."

Lautanen continued: "At the beginning of the year, this team set a goal to make it to Worlds.  We are beyond thrilled to represent Pacific School, Los Angeles, and California when heading to Iowa. I have no doubt these students will always appreciate this amazing time in their lives. We are grateful for this opportunity.”

The teams include:
For Pennekamp:
Zachary Green (3rd grade)
Matthew Yap (3rd grade)
Charlotte Fan (3rd grade)
Sierra Wolbert (4th grade)
Peyton Kuo (independent study)

Brian Chiu (7th grade)
Luke Green (7th grade)
Ashlyn Green (6th grade)
Andrew Fan (6th grade)
Abigail Seo (6th grade)

For Pacific (all 5th graders):
Amelia Rizika
Natalie Bernstein
Lauren Vick
Coco Johnson
Kyle Johnson
Charlie Kresser

To donate to the teams, please send a check payable to "MBX Foundation" with "Odyssey" in the memo line to: Manhattan Beach Odyssey Booster Club, 1748 Voorhees Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 Donations made to the MBX Foundation (FEIN 02-0603467) go directly toward supporting the students and are tax-deductible.

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