Bear River’s Odyssey of the Mind teams head on to state competition |

Bear River’s Odyssey of the Mind teams head on to state competition

Bear River High School's Arieal Swindell shows off the inner workings of a monster-like creature that her Odyssey of the Mind team — El Gato — is working on for their upcoming competition.
Elias Funez/

Life is often an ongoing process of solving problems.

Some students at Bear River High School are preparing well for that, as two of their Odyssey of the Mind teams are moving on to the Division III state competition on March 30.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competition in which students solve a variety of problems using creative thinking skills. In the beginning of the season, students are assigned one long-term problem to solve of which there are five possibilities: vehicle, technical, classics, structure and performance. At competitions throughout the school year, teams must present their long-term solutions and solve spontaneous problems, which fall into three possible categories: hands-on, verbal hands-on and verbal.

“There was a lot of room to do whatever you want in this problem,” said Annabelle Owyoung, sophomore at Bear River.

This year, Team Llama is working on the classics long-term problem, where students recreate the work of Leonard DaVinci. Bear River’s second team, Team Gato, has to solve the Hide In Plain Sight long-term problem where students create a thrice mechanically shapeshifting object.

Both teams competed in the Capital Gold regionals in the NorCal area. (In 2018, the program split the state into separate leagues, NorCal and SoCal.) The teams moved on to the state competition because they were the only teams in their division to show up and solve the problem, said coach Kyle McDaniel. In order to move onto the worlds competition, both teams must rank within the top two of five total competing teams at states.

Bear River made it to worlds last year, which included teams from China, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Poland and a middle eastern country, said Arieal Swindell, junior at Bear River.

“Last year (the spontaneous problem) was on outer space,” she said. “It was really fun.”


The teams practice two days each week for an hour total. They also meet outside of school at different times to continue perfecting the solution to their long-term problems.

At Bear River, an entire classroom is devoted to the Odyssey of the Mind team, according to coach McDaniel. At Thursday’s practice, the room was strewn with empty bottles, markers, crayons and scrap material used to solve long-term and spontaneous problems.

McDaniel sat down much of Team Llama, reviewing past spontaneous problems, and having the team solve them within limited time.


Odyssey of the Mind was originally meant to challenge advanced students, said coach Kyle McDaniel.

“It was a pullout for high cognition and high I.Q. kids who might have been bored in their traditional classroom,” said McDaniel.

Today the program is open to students from all academic backgrounds. Still, it helps to start learning the game early, said McDaniel. Magnolia Intermediate has a good feeder program into Bear River, which adequately prepares students for the high school division, said McDaniel.

“They have got within their division II (middle school) teams, these really phenomenal coaches, and a lot of support from their district through funding,” he said.

In the game, coaches are limited in their ability to help, said teaching sponsor Erin Beatie. During competitions, adults are meant to ensure safety and timeliness, but they cannot intervene without risking penalty.

“You’re only allowed the seven maximum brains on the project so really we have to stay as hands off as possible as hard as that really is,” said Beatie.

Arieal Swindell believes it’s this aspect of the game that benefits students most.

“It’s really great for the students,” she said, “because a lot of us are being told by parents and teachers, ‘This is what you have to do, this is what needs to happen.”

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at

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