Ballston Spa Odyssey of the Mind Team Qualifies for World Competition

The Ballston Spa High School Odyssey of the Mind performance team are headed to the World Finals at Iowa State University after placing second in the New York State Odyssey of the Mind Tournament at Binghamton University.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competition where students work together to solve problems in ways that incorporate performance, craftsmanship, design and more. This often involves acting out a performance with a pre-determined theme, building structures using only balsa wood and glue, as well as designing, developing and operating vehicles. This year, the team chose to create a skit of a “Stellar Hangout” which included alien creatures, food, a ‘puppet’, entertainment, a map that transforms from 2D-3D, and a quest for a treasure.

Everything has to be team created, from writing the skit, to making the costumes and building all the props. No outside assistance is allowed.

The team has been working since September winning both the regional and state tournament, qualifying them to be “World Finalists” and compete with over 800 teams from all over the United States and around the world.

The Ballston Spa High School Team consists of Jake Faubel, Tim McQuade, George Danison, Grace O’Connor, Emilee Meadors, Gabriel Baskin and Nate Zink. The students are led by Coach Justina Danison.

“Odyssey is more than just an extracurricular for our team. This program has given us an amazing opportunity to form lifelong friendships, and really explore our creative abilities. I speak for the whole team in saying that we are beyond thrilled to go to World Finals. We’ve really put our hearts and heads together for nearly eight months, and it’s incredible to see all of that hard work paying off,” said O’Connor. “This year our largest obstacle has been combining all of our ideas into something utterly original. When faced with the problem of a “Stellar Hangout” with food, we really wanted to think outside the box. Eventually, we were able to develop this concept of a gambling competition held at a space casino, in which wacky participants would play their way to a grand mystery treasure. Throughout the gaming competition, the players would traverse a treacherous game map, which ultimately became our elaborate 2D to 3D map prop.  We’re beyond proud of the result.”

Teams are not allowed to discuss what their specific spontaneous problem was, not even to parents, until after World Finals. There are three competition categories: verbal, hands-on and verbal hands-on, each timed and judged for creativity, humor, number of responses and team work.

The team is busy working to raise funds for travel and expenses related to the competition in Iowa. An Odyssey Fair is being held on Friday, May 4, 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Ballston Spa, 22 West High St. featuring baked goods, raffles, carnival games, items for sale and a talent show. Visitors can try their hand at a spontaneous problem or two to experience the student competition first-hand.

Donations are also being accepted at or by sending a check to BALLSTON SPA ODYSSEY OF THE MIND, 96 Eastern Ave. Ballston Spa, NY, 12020. The Ballston Spa School District and the Ballston Spa High School have offered to help pay for accomodations for the team, both coaches and the shipment of props.

World Finals will be held at Iowa State University, May 23-26. Additional information on this year’s challenge and tournament is available at


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