TAMPA – The students at Bryant Elementary School didn’t have too tough a job.
Quite simply, they had about five minutes to earn themselves a trip to Iowa to compete for the world championship in the Odyssey of the Mind competition.
The Bryant children, all fifth-graders, most of whom have been on the Odyssey of the Mind team for at least three years, have been trying to make it to nationals all along. They have made it to states in each of the past two years, but this year was different. They won the contest in Orlando to earn the trip to Ames, Iowa.
The competition is a bit complicated. There are three parts including verbal, hands-on, and verbal-hands. The students are not allowed to speak amongst themselves, although they can request time to talk at the expense of a penalty. The children practice all year for the event. After finishing fourth two years ago and seventh last year in the state competition, this year they made it to the world championship.
Next year, about half the team will be going to Farnell Middle School and about half will go to Walker Middle, but they hope to keep the team together. There is a camaraderie among the teammates. They finish each other’s sentences and, even when talking is not allowed, they still know how to communicate. When asked, no one claimed that he or she or anyone else was in charge. Even though the students may be headed to different schools, they hope the team can be sponsored by an outside agency so they can continue to compete together.
The children can’t talk much about their project that they will take to Ames, but it is very impressive. It’s an original idea that takes a lot more time than they have in school – they often stick around after school to put their project together with the help of their parents.
Success isn’t new to the Bryant students. When they won the regional competition at Strawberry Crest High School this year, it was their third straight regional, but they were aiming higher.
“They give us things that have to be done spontaneously,” said Emma Coutto. “They give us problems and we have to solve it using our minds. It makes us use our minds.”
Working together almost every day has made it a lot easier.
“We know how to do things because we know who does what the best,” said Valerie Muzyka. “We’re around each other so much that we can figure it all out.”
There are seven members of the Bryant team and only five can compete in competition. Tryouts are held and there aren’t a lot of dropouts from the team. One had to leave this year and Joey Benjamin became the newest addition.
“It takes a lot of practice, but I was able to fit in,” Joey said. “We know we have to work as a team, we have to learn how to be spontaneous, and we have to do everything in the right style. We choose the best course to take and we move on from there.”
The trip to Iowa will come at a cost. The expenses can run up to $6,000 and fundraising is just starting. Not only does the team have to make the trip, there are also plenty of props that the kids have been working on all year. Having just earned their trip to Iowa, they need to raise money fast.
“I have grandparents in Iowa so I go there a lot,” said Luke Barrow. “It is going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to have fun up there. Especially if we win.”
To help the Bryant kids on their trip to Iowa, contact Mary Craine at Bryant Elementary at (813) 356-1645.