Odyssey of the Mind poses even greater challenges for Sacred Heart team this year

Sacred Heart Elementary’s Odyssey of the Mind team is familiar with out-of-the-box thinking, so a COVID-19 roadblock wasn’t going to stand in its way of competing at the world championship level.

The team of students in grades 5 to 8 has been competing together for almost four years and finished second in a qualifier back in March. The provincial tournament was scheduled for March and then hopefully a trip to the world championships at Iowa State University in May.

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the in-person provincial competition, leaving team coach Lisa Nykoluk wondering whether the season, which students had begun preparing for back in October, was over.

For over 40 years, Odyssey International has been hosting a world tournament that sees over 15,000 people participate and this year recreated the tournament to be virtual.

“I didn’t think the students would want to compete since they would have to overcome somany obstacles, make a new balsa structure (it was crushed at qualifiers) and not get to travel,” says Nykoluk of the replacement tournament. “I was very wrong when I asked them if they wanted to compete. They allenthusiastically wanted to do it anywayeven with so many question marks on how it would be done.”

So, last Friday in Nykoluk’s Ladner cul de sac, the team of six adapted and recreated their eight-minute performance, all the while adhering to social distancing guidelines. A video was taken of the exercise and sent to Odyssey International.

The balsa structure was also mailed to Odyssey International where the judges will do the testing to see how much weight it will bear.

The video submission is just part one of the competition and normally worth 60 per cent of the mark. The second part will be a spontaneous challenge worth 40 per cent that Odyssey International will do with each of the approximately 500 teams participating.

Odyssey International will continue the tradition of opening and closing ceremonies for the world tournament. Experienced and volunteer judging teams participate from around the world, including B.C., and a staff of translators are on hand. Awards for top teams in each age and problem category will be announced at the Facebook Live closing ceremonies on May 30.

The Sacred Heart team is made up of students Owen Mayhew, Luan Lam, Dascha Nykoluk, Jade Defondaumiere, Kayla Spear and Zoe Wilson-Bonucci.

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