An odyssey in creating stellar solutions

On Monday, May 21, six 10 and 11 year-olds from The Harbour School boarded flights at Hong Kong International Airport to take the long journey to Iowa State University for participation in Odyssey of the Mind’s World Finals, 2018. 


This was THS’s third successful year to represent Hong Kong in the World Finals. Odyssey of the Mind is the largest global competition for creative problem-solving for children with representation from all over the United States and 25 countries in the world. A competition of an immense scale with thousands of teams, it is also an enrichment activity to foster the development of creative thinking and problem-solving skills in children. 


This year’s THS team of six animated and spirited boys developed a solution for the problem, Stellar Hangout, an intergalactic performance requiring teamwork, drama, space-themed props, an original script, costumes, and a large dose of creativity. This performance had been in the making since October 2017, and after winning the regional competition on home turf in Hong Kong, the prestigious invitation to perform on a world stage beckoned them. Rehearsals, official engagements, prop mantling, and recovery from jet lag awaited the team (and their parent chaperones) in what was a fast-paced week on the university campus. 


First came the spontaneous component, a top-secret problem encouraging students to respond critically and creatively on their feet to verbal and hands-on prompts. Our team of plucky boys sauntered out of the secret room with confidence, wide smiles and wearing a lot of celebratory silly string. Then came the highly-anticipated performance of the eight minute long term problem. Bouncer, Robber, Pterodactyl, Sand Monster, Trumpet and Bartender certainly did THS and Hong Kong extremely proud with a performance that was devoid of penalties and yet full of last-minute challenges - a damaged prop, an incomplete pulley system for a puppet, a few forgotten lines, and the all-important stage fright. 


By Saturday, May 26, at 2pm, it was all over. The props were gleefully destroyed and huge sighs of relief were uttered by all (including the adults). At last, pin trading with the other tens of thousands of US and international students could begin with a clear conscience and a steely negotiating style. By the evening, the closing ceremony commenced and results were announced. Out of the 45 teams who entered for Division I’s Stellar Hangout, THS came a very respectable 23rd place and most importantly, solved the problem without outside assistance, overrunning their performance time, within budget, and all achieved within the rules and constraints of the problem. This is quite a feat given that other schools have long histories with the competition, involve teams of experienced Odyssey coaches, and plough curricular time to their problem-solving activities within their school day. At THS, the Odyssey program is still in its infancy, students hold practice sessions after school and at weekends, and the coaches are still wading their way through the complex rules and regulations for problem formats and solutions. 


As we say congratulations to our young team for their commendable performance in Odyssey of the Mind, 2018, and for representing THS so excellently, we also applaud the plethora of real-life skills developed throughout the entire process: commitment, communication, patience, tolerance, hard work and problem-solving to name just a few. We look forward to returning next year a little wiser, more organised, and with even more creativity - and just probably, a greater armoury of glue guns. 

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