OTTUMWA — For a handful of middle schoolers, getting the correct answer isn't a top priority.
Two teams of Talented and Gifted students just completed a four-day competition where success only makes up half of the points. The Odyssey of the Mind is a unique competition that promotes having fun during competition. Judges give teams points not only based on success but also on the ingenuity because in this competition, no two answers are the same.
"The most unique thing about this event would be the camaraderie between teams," explained Odyssey of the Mind spokesperson Jennifer Veale. "Because we reward creativity, uniqueness is important with everyone in the program. It is a very tough competition, filled with one-of-a-kind solutions, but the atmosphere of the event is very friendly."
Evan Hanson, 12, experienced this camaraderie firsthand by making new friends from all over the world. More than 800 teams came to Iowa State University from all across the United States and dozens of countries.
"Each state, each country has their own pin. Kids start out with maybe eight or nine pins, and they go around and trade," said Evan's mother, Barb Hanson. The pins are a way to break the ice between participants of different cultures and get them talking to one another.
With thousands of participants from all over the world, students have the unique opportunity to learn about other cultures firsthand. "World Finals attacks approximately 17,000 students and supporters from 45 states and 15-20 foreign countries each year. This year, we had competitors from Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Toga, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Canada and France," said Alan Strohmair, who serves as Iowa's state association director.
Although the competition promotes having fun with learning, the World Finals is a tough competition. Groups are asked open-ended questions that appeal to a variety of interests. Each group is assigned a multi-platform question, one they know ahead of time and one spontaneous question that they are asked the day of competition.