4 Keystone Oaks teams win statewide Odyssey of the Mind, head to World Finals

Photos courtesy of Keystone Oaks Odyssey of the Mind club.

Many districts in our region compete each spring in the Odyssey of the Mind, a wild mashup of STEM learning and theater skills that involves using creativity, teamwork and problem-solving to impress a team of judges. This year, Keystone Oaks hit a milestone: Four teams from different grade levels at Keystone Oaks School District earned top honors at Pennsylvania’s statewide Odyssey of the Mind competition.

These creatively named teams are The Wise Elves from Dormont Elementary, The Precisely Cut Potatoes and The KO Kitty Doggies from Keystone Oaks Middle School, and the Iron Roses from Keystone Oaks High School.

Their next stop, assuming these teams can raise the funds for traveling: the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, happening May 21-24 in Ames, Iowa.

Keystone Oaks’ Wise Elves Odyssey of the Mind team.

“Our kids set a goal at the beginning of October 2023 to make it to the World Finals this year, knowing it was a long shot. They worked so hard to not only solve their problem but work as a team, persevere when things didn’t work out as planned, and truly encourage each other all along the way,” says parent Jennifer Rogers, coach of The Precisely Cut Potatoes. “This competition was about so much more than coming in first place. It was about uncovering and valuing the unique strengths within themselves and their teammates. Together, they learned the art of collaboration, determined to reach a goal that at one time seemed far out of reach.”

For the kids and their families, it’s been a great experience.

“Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is the single most impactful extra-curricular student activity I have ever been a part of, as a student, parent, and community volunteer,” says Keystone Oaks parent J.T. Smith. “If you’re not familiar with OM, google it. But basically it is a team-based, creative problem-solving competition that very much replicates challenges these kids will face as future adults/leaders.”

Odyssey of the Mind teams dream up scenarios and then create props and costumes to perform their skit while accomplishing various STEM-related tasks.

Many of the recycled materials the students used to create their props and costumes were sourced through the community’s recycling Facebook pages. The teams are now hoping that their own community and families around the region will pitch in once again, helping them get to the World Finals. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for airfare, hotels and the other costs associated with the trip.

But whether they make it to the global competition or not, it’s been a great experience for these teams.

“Keystone Oaks’ continued support for our Odyssey of the Mind club is a testament to their dedication to fostering well-rounded individuals,” says Jessica Dobson, Keystone Oaks’ Odyssey of the Mind coordinator.

Through the program, Dobson says, “students gain not only skills in teamwork, negotiation, public speaking, stage performance, engineering, and creativity but also the confidence to navigate the challenges of tomorrow’s world with grace and ingenuity. The students who participate in the program will carry the benefits with them throughout every stage of their lives, fostering success and resilience in adulthood.”