Radford University's Odyssey of the Mind earns first at world competition

Radford University's Odyssey of the Mind team had another outstanding showing at the World Finals competition last month.

The May 20-23 "creative extravaganza" was held at Michigan State University where more than 850 teams from around the world competed. The Radford team placed first out of nine teams in the Division 4 technical/mechanical category. The latest achievement comes on the heels of the team's impressive second-place finish at last year's competition.

"This is an immense honor for Radford University," said team President Kenzie VanDerwerker. "The other teams and their family and friends saw Radford University students at their best."

Odyssey of the Mind (OOTM) is a creative problem-solving competition with participation spanning from college students to kindergarten. Teams apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then compete at the local, state and world levels.

VanDerwerker, who is entering Radford University's speech therapy graduate program, formed the seven-member Radford team in 2014 with her sister, Audra, a rising junior. The Highlander duo participated in OOTM in high school and decided to organize the team when they learned there wasn't one to represent Virginia at the Division 4 level. They are joined on the team by Radford University student Gerald Pierre and four students representing other Virginia universities.


The Radford University Odyssey of the Mind team celebrates a first-place victory at the 2015 World Finals.

This year's competition challenged participants in the technical/mechanical category to build seven different machines powered by rubber bands. Each machine had to perform a certain task, such as opening a book and cutting something in half.

The team spent spring break concocting their creations, which were a huge hit at the competition.

"Our creativity and hard work paid off," VanDerwerker said. "When we were announced first place, the entire Virginia section started going crazy."

VanDerwerker said the team is already looking ahead to next year's World Finals. They hope to eventually expand so more than one Radford-representative team can compete.

Jun 24, 2015