Braille Works Helps Florida Students Take on The World

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Braille Works is proud to support Rowlett Academy’s Odyssey of the Mind teams.  This year two of the teams will represent the State of Florida at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals competition, which is hosted by Michigan State University. Teams from across the globe will compete for top placement as creative problem solvers.

Two students working on a computer together

What is Odyssey of the Mind?

Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is a STEaM (Science, Technology, Education, Art, Math) based international creative problem-solving competition. There are competitions in the United States of America, Asia, and the European Union.

Students are recruited for teams that tackle two problem-solving areas. Teams choose one of five “Long Term” problems to solve over the course of four to six months and present their solutions before a group of judges. Teams are also presented with an unknown “Spontaneous Problem” to answer in a matter of minutes.

Braille Works and Rowlett Academy’s Odyssey of the Mind

Braille Works is proud to be a longtime sponsor of Rowlett Academy’s Odyssey of the Mind. This year we are pleased that two of our team members, Donald Garcia and Christine Sket, are working with area students as team coaches. Donald and Christine both see the value of the Odyssey of the Mind program for students, and for themselves.

Donald Garcia explains the value that the Odyssey of the Mind program provides, “Odyssey of the Mind requires coaches to facilitate teamwork, yet the coaches are not allowed to contribute physically or mentally to the problem’s solution. Coaches listen to team members, and they ensure all team members have a voice in the problem’s solution. Adults consider how their leader receives feedback before speaking—children do not. Children provide honest feedback. Coaches … work with children who will point out any deviation from the rules.

“Leading without directing is a skill that Odyssey of the Mind prepares its coaches for through training. From this training and practice, I have sharpened my leadership skills. As a business leader who has coached an Odyssey of the Mind team, I now listen first and speak last.”

Rowlett Academy's Odyssey of the Mind team with eight students and two coaches

What does an Odyssey of the Mind Coach do?

An Odyssey of the Mind coach provides support for their team. A coach is present at most meetings to help the team understand the problem and provide requested resources and training. A coach also keeps the group safe and on track. Coaches provide support for the team members to grow in their problem-solving abilities and setbacks.

Meet Braille Works’ Team Members and Rowlett Academy’s Odyssey of the Mind Coaches

Donald Garcia is a Project Manager at Braille Works and coaches a middle school team from Rowlett Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The team won first place for their creative problem solving on March 2, 2019, at the Buccaneer Bay Regional Competition. The team ended their journey at the State Finals on April 6, 2019, at University of Central Florida (UCF).

Christine Sket is a contracted subject matter expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and related Federal Laws. She has been coaching Odyssey of the Mind at Rowlett Academy for almost a decade. This year she co-coached three teams.  The problems that each team faced involved engineering, physics, precision, acting, crafting, and artistic abilities.

Sket’s teams earned first place in their respective categories at the Tampa Bay Regional Competition and moved on to the State Finals. Two of her teams placed second at the Florida State Finals and will move on to compete against students from across the globe.  Her youngest team took 4th place, which is a big accomplishment because younger teams are still learning, and don’t typically place in their category.

The Benefits of Being a Coach

Donald shares that coaching Odyssey of the Mind has made him a better manager.  When he is working with his OM team, he places precedence on collaboration, skill, and the trial and error process. He uses the same process when working with the team he manages at Braille Works.  He’s learned that if a group of middle schoolers can accomplish the seemingly impossible, then anything is possible.

Christine has made it a point to recruit students with varying abilities and exceptionalities to her Odyssey of the Mind teams. Often, schools reserve programs like these for the top performing students. By breaking this mold, and having teams consistently rank high at the competitions, she is showing other Odyssey coaches the value of all students regardless of their perceived limitations. Inclusion and opportunities for people who have exceptionalities are important to Christine, and part of her life’s work.

Rowlett Academy's Odyssey of the Mind team with six students and their coach

Benefits of Odyssey of the Mind

The benefits of Odyssey of the Mind for students are lifelong. They learn how to work as a team, communicate ideas, and explain solutions. Odyssey of the Mind’s hands-on learning approach lets students try, fail, learn from the mistakes, try again, and eventually reach success. Odyssey of the Mind also allows students to apply what they learn in the classroom in a real situation. Participants in the Odyssey of the Mind program learn valuable life and work skills.

Best of Luck

Braille Works wishes all of the Odyssey of the Mind teams the best of luck as they move on to the next level of competition. We also look forward to seeing how these future problem solvers help in making the world a more accessible place for people with disabilities.

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This post was written by Christine Sket

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