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Iowa State University Extension

Odyssey of the Mind kids take creative route at Iowa State

Odyssey of the Mind parade

Any odyssey can be an extended adventure or an intellectual quest. But it takes on epic proportions when it’s the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. This quest brought more than 7,000 young problem solvers to Iowa State University in May for four days of creative competition. Odyssey of the Mind combines classroom skills with team building concepts, research and lots of imagination from kindergarten through college youth.

Each team had eight minutes or less to present a solution to a pre-assigned challenge. So across the Iowa State campus, kids were building vehicles that changed their appearance, teaching tasks to homemade mechanical creatures and demonstrating balsawood structures that could support weight and absorb shock waves. Others were examining Greek mythology, explaining superstitions and developing healthy candy.

This year marked the sixth time Iowa State and Ames have hosted the event, which celebrated its 30th anniversary.

“We could not have come to a better place, as the people of Ames and the ISU staff are so welcoming,” said Sammy Micklus, Odyssey of the Mind program director. “You come home to family – and that’s a guarantee.”

“Many students as well as coaches and leaders may be outside their native country for the first time,” said Mabry King, international liaison for the program. “It is quite an experience for them as they meet people from other countries, eat different foods, speak a lot of English and, of course, go shopping.”

But there’s more, King added. “World Finals allows the participants to take away new friendships and a greater understanding between the different cultures and peoples — which is the best thing of all.”

This odyssey had an economic impact as well, noted Julie Weeks, director of ISU Extension Conference Planning and Management. According to Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau figures, Odyssey of the Mind provided a $4 million boost to central Iowa’s economy by using nearly 4,000 hotel and motel rooms in Story, Boone and Polk counties.

“Hosting the World Finals at Iowa State allows the university to provide outreach learning opportunities by bringing thousands of students from around the world to central Iowa,” Weeks said. “This world-class event also allows us to showcase our state to more than 15,000 visitors from throughout the United States and more than 20 countries.”

This article appeared in June 2009 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter