Pine Bush OM team takes 2nd in world competition

By Ella Connors
Posted 6/5/24

The Pine Bush High School Odyssey of the Mind team recently took home second place at the Worlds competition, a feat that members of the team have attributed to their close-knit bond and fine-tuned …

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Pine Bush OM team takes 2nd in world competition


The Pine Bush High School Odyssey of the Mind team recently took home second place at the Worlds competition, a feat that members of the team have attributed to their close-knit bond and fine-tuned teamwork.

After a year full of late practices and a dedicated work ethic, the team came out strong at the competition, which took place from May 21 to 25 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The program offers five different long term problems for the teams to choose from at the beginning of the year in five different main categories — vehicle, technical, classics, structure and performance. The Pine Bush team decided collectively to tackle the technical problem for this years’ rounds of competition, which required them to design and build an Artificial Intelligence Tech-No-Art device that has the ability to determine the beauty of a work of art.

Bobbi Walter, the team’s coach who has been coaching Odyssey of the Mind for more than 20 years, said this team has been the best group of students she has ever had the pleasure to work with.

“They just do things together, and that’s what made it click,” Walter said. “If something goes wrong they are so in tune with each other that they can actually pick it up in the storyline, never miss a beat and cover for each other. That’s what made them so successful. They are such a great bunch of kids to work with.”

Another crucial factor in the team’s success was their Spontaneous performance, the section of competition requiring teams to come up with the solution to a brand new problem on the spot. Walter said that the Spontaneous score can become the deciding factor in a team’s placement, which is why it is so important that competing groups practice growing those skills throughout the year.

The world competition began with the opening ceremonies, an experience Walter compared to the Olympics. She emphasized that part of what makes attending the competition so rewarding is getting exposure to teams from not just across the country, but across the globe. They also had a buddy team they helped throughout the competition from Poland — many of whom had never been to the United States.

“It’s not just about going there to [solve] the problem,” Walter said. “It’s just really interesting to meet other people.”

Odyssey of the Mind requires competitors to collaborate and blend their individual talents in order to present a polished finished product. The two parts of the long term problem are the skit — the problem’s solution including sound effects and overall creativity — and style — which pertains to the specifics of the project and a lot of the time, deals with beauty. A team’s final score is a combination of the long term score, style score and Spontaneous score.

While some students had to manage the more technical elements of the project, others took on the more artistic roles. Jenna Hopmayer said she is not a very technical person, so the performance aspect of the presentation played better to her personal strengths.

“You have eight minutes to present the solution you’ve worked on all year,” Hopmayer said. “It is just so refreshing. It feels completely different. It’s not public speaking. It’s not singing in a musical. It is just its own thing completely.”

The skills they acquired through the program are skills that all of the competitors agreed they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Elias Blumrath said he also wrote one of his college essays on Odyssey of the Mind, highlighting how it has taught him to think outside of the box.

Blumrath and teammate Aaron Schoenberg will be college roommates in the fall, both studying mechanical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. Having headed the robot operation for this year’s problem solving endeavor, both are confident their expertise will go a long way in their future ventures.

Sienna Forbes said she and Rylee Hoornbeck, who are the only two juniors on the team, will be going to the elementary and middle school next year to coach younger students in order to keep building the program.

“The issue with Odyssey is that it is so unique and so hard that it is a program that needs a little boost,” Forbes said. “It needs to be out there more and people need to know about it because it is so special and important.”