Sixteen teams from the San Ramon Valley Unified School District will attend the Odyssey of the Mind state tournament on March 26, after competing against 151 teams from Dublin to Concord and Oakland.
Odyssey of the Mind (OSM) is an international educational program for creative problem solving in which K-12 students solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.
Three of four Stone Valley Middle School teams will advance to the finals as will two San Ramon Valley High teams, two Charlotte Wood Middle School teams, two Tassajara Hills Elementary teams and teams from Rancho Romero Elementary, Coyote Creek Elementary, Iron Horse Middle School and California High.
"This is the first year that Tassajara Hills Elementary has participated in the Odyssey of the Mind program. It certainly was a great start to have both teams advance to the state competition," said Extreme Mousemobile coach Jenni Rhee.
This year's OSM competition had five cleverly named problems that were broken up by division. Tassajara Hills' mousemobile problem required teams to design, build and run vehicles that used mousetraps as their only source of energy with a $145 spending limit.
"The team not only had to create the mousemobiles that were required to…travel seven to 15 feet, (but) create the backdrops, costumes, and props and create the skit," said Rhee.
Students could also participate in As Good as Gold…berg, a task that had teams create an unnecessarily complex device to complete a simple task; Le Tour Guide, a performance piece where a classic character acts as a tour guide; Unhinged Stucture where students would design and build a solution using only balsa wood and glue that folds into itself without coming apart; and Full Circle, a humorous performance where something changes form or appearance at least three times and eventually returns to its original form and appearance.
Figuring out the unhinged structure problem was a difficult process for our young team, Rhee said, noting that the students began the process by watching a video on general concepts of building towers with balsa wood and invited an engineer to the school to speak about building issues. After that, it became a simple trial-and-error process.
"The most impressive part of this competition is that it is entirely student driven. The parent coaches act as facilitators who help keep a schedule…and encourage problem-solving and outside of the box thinking," said Rhee.
The OSM state tournament will be held on Saturday, March 26 at Heritage High School in Brentwood. Teams will perform the same problem or skit and will compete against teams from seven other regions in California. The top two teams from each problem in each division will advance to the world tournament at the University of Maryland, College Park on May 27 through May 30.