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Photos by Barbara Steiger
Team members Andrew Wyshak '08, Jillian Ernst '09, Garrett Stiger '08. Alyssa Chamberlin '09, and Maria Fiorille '07 pose with their first place trophy (above); performing the skit (below)
Student Kudos

Mind Games

One could look up the origins of the Egyptian pyramids in an ancient-history textbook—but for Ithaca College’s first-ever Odyssey of the Mind (OM) team, that would be way too easy. Instead, the six IC student contestants were asked to forget about the pharaohs-building-pyramids theory and come up with a more fun explanation. They did—to win first place in their division at this year’s world competition, held at Iowa State University.

OM is a creative problem-solving competition that consists of an eight-minute prepared skit performed by the team members, as well as a surprise problem addressed on the spot. The IC students’ topic was “the classics”; they had to come up with an original explanation for how any ancient Egyptian structure was constructed.

Their skit had to do with a childish pharaoh, a dimwitted servant, and a juicer—and their presentation brought them first-place honors. The secret to winning? “Humor,” says OMer (as they call themselves) Garrett Stiger ’08, who helped start the College organization. “One judge just wrote, ‘Funny shit.’ ” For their spontaneous problem, five team members found themselves in a room with a cardboard mockup of a computer—three times normal size—and had to respond to judges’ questions about the machine.

Funny, yes. But speech communication professor and faculty adviser Jodi Cohen points out that OMers also get educational benefits: life skills such as creative problem solving and small-group work.

 Stiger agrees: “[An organization] sent me a list of skills you need to succeed in the ‘real’ world, and I bet 90 percent were the same as the ones we learn in OM.

Fellow OMer Alyssa Chamberlin ’09, who helped Stiger start the group, concurs that the skills learned aren’t always the same as those learned in the classroom. “You don’t have to be [especially] smart to be in OM,” she says. “You have to be practical, you have to be creative, you have to solve problems, and you have to face challenges.”

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