Wednesday, June 26, 2013

World Champs, Part Two: An Oklahoma All-Star team!

Okay, so if you read yesterday's post, you've been waiting anxiously (don't laugh, it could happen) for the story of the OSU team and their success.  Warning:  this post is loooooong.  Too long.  Sorry.  Skip to the end for the video of the 2013 First Place Problem 3 Division IV team.  Then come back and enjoy the story of how it all happened.
GO POKES!  Oklahoma State University's first ever OM team comes home World Champions!

A short history of OM in Stillwater

In the 2005-2006 school year, my daughter Tory and son Robin agreed to try putting together two OM teams.  We knew of OM from schools in Nebraska (where Tory was too young for a team) and at the DODDS school in Germany (where Tory actually participated one year on a team.)  We knew the basics; we knew that Destination ImagiNation was an option as well (having had friends who had participated in both programs), and we started researching to find out how to begin a team.
Judith and Robin on the vehicle they constructed, with the beginnings of Sassy the Sasquatch (later covered in fur.)  2006.
At the time, I was a Gifted and Talented Program Specialist for Stillwater Public Schools.  OM and DI are often used for gifted programming, so I asked for and received permission to bring the program to Stillwater Schools.  At the time, DI did not have a presence in the state, so we went with OM.  We formed two teams (one sixth grade, Division 2, and one high school, Division 3.)  The kids and I recruited team members, the teams chose problems, and we got to work.

That first year was crazy hard.  I went to every training and support meeting I could and searched for any information I could find online (remember, YouTube wasn't up and running yet.)  I even visited the other region's tournament the week before our tournament just to make sure we were on the right page.  (We were, sort of, and some of my other students attended that tournament with me and got excited about forming teams the following year.)  Until you've actually attended a competition, you really don't have any idea what the program is all about.  Our kids did okay, enjoyed the whole process, and most came back the following year.

Another shot of our pathetic first attempt at the vehicle problem, 2006.  Nice dragon, huh?
He did have electronic eyes, which was pretty cool.
On the middle school team were a very young Robin and Mason, two sixth grade boys with huge potential. Mason's comment after the first year:  "This is the most fun activity I have ever been involved in."  Something about power tools, creativity, teamwork, and autonomy (the team must create all aspects of the solution and make all decisions with no outside assistance from anyone) really piques kids' interest, and these two were hooked!

2008 - Stillwater fielded twelve teams!
Mason and Robin continued enthusiastically - every year recruiting new team members to replace those who left.  Their second year they qualified for World Finals (winning first or second at State earns the team a trip to Worlds) and continued to qualify every year after (sometimes just barely).  Our first trip to Worlds was to Michigan State University in 2007, and we GOT SO LUCKY to be housed on the same dorm floor as a team from Edmond, Oklahoma (it's about an hour away from Stillwater) who were the same age.  Our kids hit it off and became good friends, and we enjoyed competing with (and often against) them every year.  Once Facebook enabled them to correspond easily, they even started going to each others' birthday parties and other events.
2007 World Finals - Michigan State - the year we met the Edmond team.

Competitors, yes, but friends too.

The cool thing about these teams becoming friends:  Never was the fact that they were competing against each other an issue.  They cheered for each other and encouraged each other and celebrated together.  For instance, at many competitions they would form victory arches for the other team to run through.  Best kids ever.
Mason, Claire, Lucy, Robin, Jacob, Slava at a pizza place in Maryland in 2008.
Great to see our friends again!
Over the years, our solutions got better and better (although our style never even came close to the scores of the Edmond team.)  Finally, in 2011, the Stillwater team heard their name called at the World Finals awards ceremony.  Fourth Place, a big win for our team!  (You can see the video of that Problem 5, Division III, "Full Circle" performance here.)
Robin, me, and Mason after hearing our team won FOURTH PLACE in the world!  2011 - University of Maryland.
At World Finals awards ceremonies, only the top three teams get to cross the stage. Mason's comment when we won 4th place was, "Next year, we walk."  Unfortunately, they did walk - across the stage at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, where they graduated from high school the same night they could have been competing in Iowa.  Not competing during their senior year was a super tough decision; Robin had been saying for years that he wouldn't mind missing high school graduation to go to Worlds, but then three of the seven team members were elected class officers - and all of them had to speak at graduation.

(In fact, "not doing OM during senior year" ended up not working so well.  I asked for some help coaching a new team, and within hours Mason and Robin were inspired to form a team of three.  Madi, new to OM but anxious to try it, and Robin and Mason started working in January on an incredible three-person farce, with slamming doors, multiple characters and costume changes, and characters climbing in and out of windows and up and down stairs.)

(In OM, you really need at least five people on a team due to the nature of the Spontaneous Problem-Solving part of the competition.  For this three-person effort, Logan and Kelsey were recruited to attend competition at Regional and State simply to add their skill to the spont team.  Perfectly legal and legit.  It happened again this year; more on that later.)
2012's three- (or is it five-?) person team before competing at Regionals.

All-Star Team

High school is rough for OM kids.  The season is long, it involves many, many hours, and the type of kids who like to do OM are the same kids who are in band, orchestra, Youth In Government, school plays, student council, and so on.  Several times when trying to recruit team members, we discussed the idea of forming an "Oklahoma All-Star team" made up of kids from both Stillwater and Edmond.  That's exactly what happened this year.
Mason and Robin getting ready to perform; Lauren getting in character behind them.
OM has a collegiate division open to any adult taking college classes; teams can be made up of members from a variety of schools.  Our team knew going into their freshman year that they wanted to do OM as Division IV competitors, and six of them attended OSU, so the Institute for Creativity and Innovation at OSU sponsored the team (thanks, Melanie!)  Five Stillwater kids and two Edmond kids competed, using Google Docs and GroupMe to plan their script during the school year.  Once finals week ended, they all started hanging out at my house in order to build their solution.  Two weeks later, they put their stuff on the props truck and boarded the bus, headed for Michigan once again.

Claire, University of North Texas vocal performance major, sings as the music box opens.
Their solution was phenomenal.  Division IV usually has fewer participants but bigger crowds, and the crowd at this team's performance was hugely appreciative of their work.  In true college-level fashion, the team used metaphors to meet the required elements.  Their problem ("Art-chitecture:  The Musical") required a replica of an actual structure, with artwork that goes missing and is later integrated into the structure.  Teams had to have two sets of choreographed moves with music and lyrics.k  Several of the elements were judged on artistic quality, and the quality of the performance is also important in Problem 3.

One set of choreographed moves had The Shah picking up the female assistant and shoving her in front of him for protection.  Another had a sword brandishing in "four-four time" like an orchestra conductor.  Subtle things you don't notice unless you are the judge or know the team's work.
Without further ado, I give you the video of the winning performance.  Problem 3, Division IV, Odyssey of the Mind World Finals 2013 at Michigan State University; here is Oklahoma State University's solution.  Congrats to these great young adults!

(Listen closely to the father at the end.  It will give you goose bumps or make you cry.  Or both.  Usually both, for me.)

Aren't these kids fantastic?  And aren't we lucky they are still doing OM?

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