Odyssey team perseveres at regionals

A shattered glass jar full of glitter was perhaps the last thing judges expected to see during the Odyssey of the Mind regional competition Saturday. But from a skit featuring a plastic cape-wearing bear, a recycled vehicle — and later, a burnt lantern — judges and team members alike learned that sometimes things don’t always go as planned.

“Our competition problem was the No-Cycle Recycle, and basically we had to make a vehicle from scratch and then make it move,” said junior Makana Grimm, a member of the team. “We had to have attachments on the vehicle that would pick up three items and then adapt them and set them back down. That’s basically where everything went wrong.”

It all happened as Grimm attempted to use a claw-like contraption as her attachment in order to pick up one of the items. The item she was aiming for happened to be a glass mason jar — one that wouldn’t be sticking around for long.

“Makana was trying to grab the jar when it shattered on the ground,” said junior Holly Viele, a first-year Odyssey of the Mind teammate. “She then grabbed her assistant, which was a giant stuffed bear with a cape made out of a plastic bag, and then used the bag to scoop up all the glitter and just continued with the skit.”

Judges, however, were more concerned about the team’s safety, and tried to terminate the skit.

“A judge tried to stop her because of all the glass, but she said, ‘Don’t worry I’m going around it,’ ” Viele said. “Later he told Makana’s mom that was the first time in 25 years that he had ever tried to stop someone from doing something in the middle of a skit.”

Little did the judges know, problems arose well before the performance even began when the backdrop fell apart, requiring the team to put it back together again. Complications continued on stage, manifesting in the form of a faulty recycled vehicle.

“I had to make something up on the spot,” Grimm said. “I was saying, ‘The vehicle is recycled so it’s having some rough patches and it’s not really moving right now, but we’ll get there eventually.’ ”

The improvisation didn’t end there, however, as Grimm had to adapt to yet another prop malfunction later on in the skit.

“She turned our lantern on and it just burned out,” Viele said. “So she handed it to me and used a plastic bag in place of the lantern. The lights weren’t working, so you couldn’t even tell what it was supposed to be. I just hung it up and we kept going.”

The team’s efforts paid off in the end, as the students received an Omer award for out-of-the-box thinking, phenomenal communication and a clear engineering process.

“The judges were very impressed with our teamwork and the fact that it wasn’t just one person doing all of the work,” Viele said. “They commented on how we were very calm and not stressed about it, and how when we walked into the room, we were actually laughing.”

Grimm was given an individual Omer in addition to the team award for persevering through the numerous technical difficulties and keeping the performance alive.

“She kind of led everything and prompted us on what to do,” Viele said. “She did a really awesome job pretending the mess-ups never happened.”

By Elizabeth Marrin