STEM in Action-MSB-Shakopee Hosts Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota State Tournament

Posted by on March 31, 2012


"GEMS" from Garlough Environmental Magnet School wait to watch a group perform.

For the second year in a row, Minnesota School of Business-Shakopee is hosting the Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota State Tournament. Twenty teams of problem loving and problem solving students descended on to the Shakopee campus, hauling Styrofoam, weights, Little Red Wagons, medieval costumes, hand-painted back drops and other assorted props. Grace Fellowship Home School, Ramalynn Montesosori Academy, Isanti Intermediate School, Spring Grove Public Schools, Plymouth Parks and Recreation and Garlough Environmental Magnet School made a showing with smiling coaches and parents in tow. This is the culmination of hours of creative brainstorming.

2nd graders from Spring Grove Public Schools perform their interpretation of "Hide and Seek".

One of the coaches, Rachel Udstuen, is the Spring Grove Public Schools Superintendent. She has had middle school teams in the past, and now coaches a second grade team. “My team has never done this before…I brought them to the tournament so they know what to expect for next year.” Spring Grove is a small, historic Norwegian settlement, located about an hour from LaCrosse Wisconsin and Rochester, MN. It’s website,, boasts, “Our community is family friendly with a 5-star rated K-12 school, a state-of-the-art family SWIM Center, a public library with high-speed Internet access, fiber-optic throughout the city and outlying areas, and a new digital movie theater.” This small community brought five teams. They clearly support STEM in Spring Grove.

Volunteers and officials come from Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota…all who were once OMers (Odyssey of the Mind-ers) themselves. Husband and wife team Sheri and Chris Ober volunteer as Tournament Director and Assistant, lending their attention to detail and passion to the tournament. Karen Betzig-Lundberg is Association Director. Her children are grown and have long been done with OM, but she can’t give it up. She gives special thanks to parents, “for washing the paint-stained clothes , listening to script practice, the many practices and work sessions…”

OM Judges, many of whom are former OM participants, tally scores.

One long-term problem is titled “You Make the Call.” For this problem,”teams will design and build a structure made of only balsa wood and glue that will balance and support as much weight as possible. The structure may have a maximum weight of 9 grams and will receive two times the weight held, or 12 grams and receive 1 1/2 times the weight held, or 15 grams and receive the actual weight held. The testing of the structure will be presented in a performance that includes mathematics in its theme.” Piece of cake, right? Yes, if you are a Plymouth Parks and Recreation team member!

There has been a lot of talk lately about the importance of STEM- an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-in K-12 education. In order for our country to produce future innovators, we need to introduce children, at a very young age, to problem solving and critical thinking skills, then support their growing years will many opportunities to put STEM in action. Odyssey of the Mind is one such organization that c.ultivates creative problem-solving

According to, “Odyssey of the Mind is a non-profit, international creative problem-solving program for students, Kindergarten through College. The philosophy behind the Odyssey of the Mind program is that creativity can be learned. Problems cover many disciplines such as classics, performance, vehicle, structure, and technical. All solutions are done entirely by team members and outside assistance is not allowed. Students learn lifelong skills such as teamwork, project management and divergent thinking. Students learn to examine problems and identify the real challenge without limiting the possible solutions and their potential success. In Odyssey of the Mind there are no wrong answers!”

Odyssey of the Mind can be a great organization for young learners to hone their creative problem-solving skills. Who knows? OM Minnesota just may discover the next Bill Gates!


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