Odyssey of the Mind

Members of the first-place Odyssey of the Mind team

A team of Upper St. Clair High School juniors placed first in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.

Victoria Cuba, Brianna Lin, Joseph Markovitz, Max Murtough, Sammie Seewald, Constantine Tripodes and Eric Wang took top honors among 36 teams in the Division 3 performance problem. Coaching the students were Laura Murtough, Stacey Seewald and Meridith Markovitz.

The winners were announced during the Odyssey of the Mind Virtual World Finals Awards Ceremony, which was broadcast online May 30. Upper St. Clair was the only team from Western Pennsylvania that earned an award at the World Finals and the only Pennsylvania team to earn first-place honors.

“The last time an Upper St. Clair Odyssey team took the top prize at World Finals was nearly 10 years ago in 2011, so it’s quite an achievement,” Murtough said. “We’re so proud of all of our USC teams, especially this group of amazing juniors who have competed together for five years now.”

Eighteen Upper St. Clair teams had competed at the regional tournament March 7. At that event, seven teams qualified for the Pennsylvania Odyssey of the Mind State Finals at Lock Haven University, which were scheduled for April 4.

“Like everything else, all Odyssey tournaments, including World Finals at Iowa State University in late May, were canceled,” Murtough said. “It was a real blow for those teams whose odyssey was cut short. Our students were actually lucky as many teams around the world had not even had their regional tournament before the shutdown. But Odyssey of the Mind adapted to the new normal and kept the program going, virtual.”

Any team, regardless of whether it had competed at a regional tournament, was given the opportunity to participate in Virtual World Finals. Teams were required to submit their eight-minute performance by video, followed by up to seven minutes of explanation during which they could elaborate on their solutions for judges who would evaluate the videos from their homes around the world. It was critical that teams follow their local social-distancing guidelines, so if they were not able to get together to film their performance or explanation, it was up to them to creatively solve that issues.

Teams took various approaches to their video. Some filmed outdoors while socially distanced. Others took advantage of Zoom and Facetime to collaborate and appear together.

“One judge noted that ‘this team’s video was the single biggest take away he had from this year and will be his explanation of how a virtual tournament can help showcase creativity in new ways,’” Murtough said.

In total, six Upper St. Clair teams were among nearly 850 teams from around the world that competed in the Odyssey Virtual World Finals. In addition to the high school team were:

  • Eisenhower Elementary – Problem 3 (Classics), Division 1. Audrey Chakos, Charlotte Carothers, Michael Earley, Vikrant Kamat, Kiran Khurana, Ahana Mendhi and Chase Paupa. Coached by Richard and Colleen Earley.
  • Streams Elementary – Problem 3 (Classics), Division 1. Nigel Bailey, Daphne Collins, Parker Sams, Leonhard Schwall, Jillian Torres and Ashwin Vasudevan. Coached by Jake Collins and Sarah Sams.
  • Boyce Middle School – Problem 2 (Technical), Division 1.: Saara Iyer, Leela Kulkarni, Olivia Murphy, Sahana Senthil and Yaqoot Zalloum. Coached by Souyma Rao and Rema Yaqoot.
  • Boyce Middle School – Problem 5 (Performance), Division 1. Molly Biedrzycki, Milena Casciani, Emme Ciccolella, Grace McDonough, Alexis Perenic, Catalina Ramirez and Max Urban. Coached by Katie Talarico and Christina Casciani.
  • Fort Couch Middle School – Problem 3 (Classics), Division 2. Anastasia Gzikowski, Esha Lathia, Peter Markovitz, Owen Mucho, Ben Murtough, Ben Seewald and John Tripodes. Coached by Meridith Markovitz, Stacey Seewald and Laura Murtough.