Faculty

State Odyssey of the Mind tournament gets help from Brandman volunteers

April 07, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell

UC Riverside was buzzing with youngsters Saturday morning – the youthful participants in the California State Odyssey of the Mind event. Helping keep them, their families and coaches all headed to the right places at the right times were volunteers from Brandman University.

Lynn Larsen

Brandman University’s Lynn Larsen keeps track of California Odyssey of the Mind activities.

Leading the way was Dr. Lynn Larsen, known as an associate dean and professor in the School of Education based at the Riverside campus,but known around the Odyssey of the Mind world as the state director. With cell phone, walkie-talkie and clipboard in hand she kept everyone on task as teams headed off to compete in both spontaneous and long-term contests posed by five different challenges. (See one team in action.)

Pat Hammer, assistant vice chancellor for Northern California, greeted teams as they checked in for the spontaneous challenge and sometimes wielded a bullhorn to make sure she could be heard above the perpetual chatter.

Pat Hammer

Pat Hammer directs a set of youngsters to their competition area.

Dr. Kimberly Greene, associate professor in the School of Education, spent her day checking participants into the mechanical/vehicle challenge, which for some participants began at the door. Although standing outside a double door, she opened only one side, mirroring the requirements for width.

Greene got involved because Larsen has been encouraging her to take the Odyssey of the Mind program to the school Greene’s son attends. Even as the heat began to rise in Riverside and bewildered and bewildering teams and families gathered at her door, Greene said she was glad to be there. “Seeing videos of the event don’t really capture it. You really have to see it in person,” she said. “Lynn does an amazing job.”

Kimberly Greene

Kimberly Greene directs incoming traffic at the mechanical vehicle competition.

Recent Brandman doctoral student and adjunct faculty member Dr. Sharon Nakama also spent her Saturday at the tournament. She earned an OMer award for demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship and exhibiting the philosophy of Odyssey after volunteering to be an American Sign Language interpreter for a deaf family attending the event.

“I always say when you volunteer, so many great things come your way,” wrote Nakama on her Facebook page.

Volunteers pose with Dr. Sam Micklus for a selfie.

Volunteers pose with Dr. Sam Micklus for a selfie.

One highlight of the day for volunteers was the chance to meet Dr. Sam Micklus, who founded the program in 1978 in New Jersey. Since that first event which featured 28 teams, he’s seen it grow to hundreds worldwide. The California state tournament alone has more than 400 teams from 10 regions competing for a chance to go World Odyssey of the Mind in May.

Seated in a lounge area of the UC Riverside student center, Micklus was happy to pose for pictures with volunteers and answer questions about the history of the program.

No matter whether they go to the next level of competition, Micklus said he wants all participants to “try something and do their best at it.”

He created the first Odyssey competition because he saw a creativity gap among college students and thought he needed to reach students earlier in their lives. “Teachers preferred noncreative kids to creative kids and administrators preferred hiring noncreative teachers to creative teachers,” said Micklus, who remembers the word “crazy” being tossed around whenever really creative ideas were suggested.

“Now everybody is talking about it (creativity),” he said. “It’s no longer a strange, uphill battle. You know what Mark Twain said, ‘You’re a nut until your idea catches on.’”

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