Odyssey of the Mind Headquarters

OdysseyHQ is a small family-run business with a big passion for creative problem-solving. It is backed by a global network of grassroots volunteers that make up Odyssey of the Mind. While OM™ has a world-wide reach, the content of the program is created by OdysseyHQ—still run by Founder Dr. Sam’s family and staff. HQ creates the framework of the program and publishes new long-term problems each year with the help of experienced problem writers and leaders in professions represented by each problem. OM’s success depends on the countless number of volunteers that believe in the importance of creative problem solving. Many have given years of service, while even more started as a participant and grew into leadership roles within the program! With more than 40 years of inspiring creativity in the classroom, there are now generations of “OMers” that bring their special talents to the program. 

Maryland & Washington DC Odyssey of the Mind Association

The Maryland & Washington D.C. Odyssey of the Mind Association works with teams throughout the Maryland and Washington D.C. areas to encourage and promote the mission and vision of Odyssey of the Mind Headquarters. The Association works with coaches and teams to learn creative problem-solving methods while having fun. Team members learn how to think “outside of the box”, developing new solutions while promoting teamwork. Odyssey of the Mind provides a space where new ideas and suggestions are welcomed, without criticism, allowing team members to develop life-long skills.

Meet the MD-DC Odyssey of the Mind Team

Association Director – Erica Hennes

Erica first started competing in Odyssey of the Mind in 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. In her seven years as a team member, she competed in the Technical, Classics, and Performance Problems. Her team went to World Finals thrice and competed in six problems total, placing second in the Performance Problem in 2015. Since then, Erica has stayed active as a Performance Problem Long-Term and Head Judge in the Central and Eastern Regions of NCOM and a Problem Judge at World Finals. She moved to DC in 2019 and joined the Maryland Board, serving in a number of roles over the course of her tenure. Erica graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2019 and currently works in health policy at NIH.

Membership Director – Val Keithly

Starting in fourth grade, Val spent 9 years competing in OM primarily in the Classics problem, but would also in the Technical and Performance problems. Val’s team made it to World Finals three times. After graduating high school, he spent 2 years coaching a division 3 team in the Technical problem, making it to Worlds both times. Since 2016, he has judged for various associations and regions in almost every problem and division, including judging at World Finals in 2019 and 2023. In the fall of 2020, Val joined the MD-DC board, first as the Spontaneous Problem Captain, and then as Membership Director and Problem 2 Problem Captain. Having recently moved to Anne Arundel County, Val spends free time outside of OM exploring the area and trying to figure out why Maryland is so obsessed with Crabs.

Communications Director – Helen Girod

Helen joined Odyssey of the Mind in California as a fourth grader, competing for nine years across the Vehicle, Classics, and Performance problems. She and her team competed in World Finals four times and following her time as a team member, Helen has spent four years judging at the regional and state level. Working as an environmental engineer, Helen uses skills she learned in Odyssey of the Mind to continue thinking outside the box every day. She is excited to be involved with OMers again and recently joined Maryland and Washington DC Odyssey of the Mind as the Communications Director in 2023.

Alumni Coordinator & Assistant Problem Captain (Balsa) – Lydia Freehafer

Lydia grew up in New York and joined her first Odyssey team at the age of 5, starting as a kindergartner and competing every year after that until her senior year of high school. During that time, she participated in the Primary, Technical, Classics, and Performance problems, but spent most of her years competing in the Balsa problem. While in college, her Division IV team, with members from Ithaca College, Cornell University, and Dartmouth College, placed first at World Finals. After graduating from Dartmouth, Lydia judged in New York before moving to DC, where she joined the MD-DC board in 2023. She is currently a researcher working in sustainable transportation and vehicle electrification. Lydia is an OMer through and through and is excited to help grow the number of OMers in MD-DC!

Problem Captain (Score Room) – Joy Stephenson

Joy first competed in Odyssey in 2002, where her team came in dead last. Over the next 10 years she competed in Vehicle, Technical, Classics, and Performance problems in Divisions II, III, and IV. She represented her home state of Delaware at World Finals six times, and returned to the University of Delaware with trophies in 2010 and 2012. Joy started volunteering as an official in 2009 and joined the World Finals Score Room team in 2014. Over the past decade, Joy has been Maryland’s Problem Captain for Primary, Classics, and Performance. She currently serves as the Score Room Problem Captain.

Problem Captain (Classics) – Elizabeth Nelting

Beth has been involved with Odyssey of the Mind since 2002. She started as a competitor but has since judged, coached, been a Regional Director, and is the current Problem 3 Problem Captain for Maryland Odyssey of the Mind. When Beth is not thinking about Maryland Odyssey, you can find her in Philadelphia trying new restaurants, playing ultimate frisbee, and rock climbing.

Problem Captain (Balsa) – Gezelle Osea

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gezelle competed in Odyssey of the Mind from 1989 through 1992. During those three years, she competed in the Balsa/Structure problem and eventually became her team’s primary structure engineer. Her team went to the World Finals in 1992 as Oklahoma’s Division 3 representative. Gezelle graduated from Rice University in 1998 and moved to the Washington DC area in 2000. She serves as the Problem 4 Balsa/Structure Captain for the Maryland Board and currently develops mortgage loan products for Freddie Mac.

Problem Captain (Performance & Primary) – Ryan Blackman

Ryan began competing in Odyssey of the Mind in 1996 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In his 9 years as a team member, he competed in numerous problems, including three trips to World Finals. In 2005, Ryan’s Division 4 team came home to Shippensburg University with three trophies, including two world championships. Shortly after graduating, Ryan began volunteering as a regional problem captain in Pennsylvania. He has been a regional/state Problem Captain since 2008, judging at World Finals for over a decade including recent stints as a WF Head Judge for Problem 5. He moved to Virginia in 2014 and has been judging up and down the East Coast, joining the Maryland Board in 2022. Ryan works in Financial Planning, and looks forward to his two daughters becoming OMers.

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