Maya Rogne has Odyssey of the Mind to thank for her own odyssey in creativity and curiosity


Maya Rogne

Sophomore Maya Rogne with her dog, bundled up in the snow outside

Sophomore Maya Rogne once spent a few nights on the grounds of a former Hitler Youth training camp that had been converted into a summer camp. 

The strange and solemnly historical experience composed just a piece of Maya’s trip to Europe for the 2018 Eurofest Odyssey of the Mind competition in Germany. From staying in a hotel in Berlin for five days before the competition to camping at the former historical site to joining forces with Polish and German teams to utilize the skills OM had taught her team, the overseas trip was an educational pinnacle for Maya and her team. 

The team of seven has not only garnered opportunities like attending Eurofest, but others as well, like qualifying for the OM World Finals more than once.

“[Our team] gets along really well,” Maya said. “There’s the occasional friendship bicker, but it’s really fun. Usually, when there’s not a pandemic, we go to World Finals, if we make it. So we spend days in dorms together, and some of us have even been to Europe together.”

Maya embarked on her Odyssey of the Mind journey in fourth grade, courtesy of her sister’s interest in the program. 

Now, six years later, she devotes considerable portions of her time to their success. Typically, her team gathers for a few hours every week, practicing their skit for competition, building and working on their projects, and practicing for the Spontaneous Rounds—when they will receive a question and be expected to return it with a creative answer. 

As competition closes in, they crack down and prioritize even more practices. They’ll give their weekends to OM, sometimes even involving sleepovers. 

“Around now, it starts to get a little stressful with all my different classes and online school going on at the same time,” Maya said. “I’m putting a lot of time at night into homework—after practices and stuff, because usually I sleep in on the weekends. But it gets easier once you get the initial competition out of the way; then it’s more relaxed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably affected OM, putting a spin on this year’s proceedings. Maya’s team qualified for the most recent World Finals, participating in an entirely virtual event that involved everything from the transition of their Spontaneous competitions to a Google Form format to recording and submitting Zoom calls. 

This year, Maya’s team has been able to meet safely in person—masks and as much social distancing as possible. The Finals will share a similar format to last year’s, with certain changes—teams will be able to Zoom from the same location with COVID restrictions in effect. 

“[The pandemic] definitely has put a strain on things,” Maya said. “Virtual meetings aren’t nearly as fun as when you’re with your friends, and then the competition—just the overall aspects: spending a whole Saturday at a high school, meeting new people, watching performances, and performing live in front of a big audience—is a lot of fun. I love it, but it’s not going to be the same this year.”

But even though Maya will miss the energy that the audience imbues on the teams, she values the safety that this format can bring, and she’s just as zealous as ever about her team’s project, the challenge for which is a self-propelled car that can fit through a doorway. 

Through these types of projects, Maya has also delved into a passion for engineering. She’s sparked curiosity “about how things work in general, how to make things run, how to make things move.” 

This curiosity and creativity are entirely evident in her personality, powerful components as she decides how significant of a role these mechanics will play in her life. OM has played a salient role in bringing these qualities to life in Maya.

“[My personality has] developed because I used to be a lot more shy than I am right now,” Maya said, “but I feel like Odyssey of the Mind has made me step out of my shell; you’re performing in front of audiences and in front of people, interacting a lot more, so definitely, it’s unlocked a new section of my brain just to let that creativity spill out.”

Now, Maya finds herself seeking creativity in everything. What began with Odyssey of the Mind and fostering innovation and curiosity for the purpose of competition has walked alongside Maya to bring her here—a place in her life where she employs those qualities in even the most simple things, like going above and beyond to make a French project original and out of the box. 

“I used to be the kind of person who would sit in the class, rarely raised their hand, was nervous to talk in front of the class,” Maya said, “but now I feel like I’ll get up in front of the class, give a presentation, [and] be a lot more myself. That’s something we’ve been focusing on during presentations in Language Arts—maintaining your personality while you’re up in front of a group of people. And I feel like [Odyssey of the Mind has] really helped me do that.”