Evart OM teams advance to world competition

EVART — Fourteen Evart Public Schools students are using imagination and insight to expand their horizons on an international level.

Both the Evart High School and Evart Middle School Odyssey of the Mind teams have taken the top spots from competitions at the regional and state level and will travel to Iowa State University at the end of May to try their hands in the world competition.

OM is an educational competition where students solve problems using creativity, research and learning. Each problem has its own rules and requirements that must be followed, and all work must be completed by the students. Problems may ask the team to create, build, perform or model aspects of the solution. At each competition, judges provide feedback and score the teams based on criteria such as how well the rules were followed, the depth of creativity and how well the problem was solved. Teams pick one problem to work on for the year, but the solutions can be modified before each competition.

Seven members make up each Evart team, and all love the extracurricular activity, making time to meet and practice while balancing sports, music and dance obligations.

"All of the work you put into this is ridiculous," said high school team member Carly Weinberg with a laugh. "But it's a different way I can use my talents and work with friends to produce something that shows what Evart can do."

Both teams meet at least twice each week to discuss, research and create solutions to the chosen problem. Trial and error, along with thinking outside of the box, are huge components to being successful. However, team members believe OM has helped them gain determination, decision making and problem solving skills, helped them learn how to use available resources and how also to work as a team.

During the regional competition, the middle school team received first place, and the high school team received second place and was also awarded with the prestigious Ranatra Fusca award, which is given to "teams or individuals who exhibit exceptional creativity, either through some aspect of their problem solution, or an extraordinary idea beyond the problem solution."

Middle school team member Nathan Woods enjoys competing for a number of reasons.

"All of the judges and the volunteers do their best to make it a positive atmosphere and make it fun," he said.

Kaitlynn Gudding, one of the newest members to the middle school team, has embraced OM and the varying solutions other teams bring to the same problem.

"You see a high level of creativity," she said. "It's really cool."

During the state competition, the middle school team placed second and the high school team played first and again was given the Ranatra Fusca award.

"When they called the third place team, everyone started bawling because they knew they made it to worlds," said middle school team coach Dina Wetters. "They were hugging each other because they were so excited to go."

The teams are looking forward to attending the world competition and meeting fellow OM lovers who understand the hard work that needs to be done to progress to such a level.

"We learned a lot last year watching the different countries," Schneider said. "I really feel like we have a chance to do really well this year."

Weinberg agreed.

"We really want to go out with a bang and have a good finale," she said.

During the world competition, the team will be competing for themselves and as a state against thousands of other students from across the U.S. as well as 25 other countries. More than 800 teams are expected to participate this year.

"I'm really proud of them," Wetters said. "I love seeing them work as a team. At this point they've worked so hard they can do it in their sleep."

To travel to Iowa next month, the teams have been fundraising to cover costs. Businesses or individuals who would like to sponsor the team to help them go to the world competition can send an email to EvartOdysseyoftheMind@gmail.com or they can call Wetters at (231) 734-6571.