Odyssey of the Mind Update

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Odyssey of the Mind Update
Ellicottville Central School Odyssey Teams Prepare for States
By Nicholas Pircio

 

They may have had a week off from school, but some Ellicottville students could be found at the Ellicottville Central School building this week getting set for a state-level competition this weekend in Binghamton. The students are members of two Odyssey of the Mind teams practicing their skills in preparation for the Saturday event. They’ve been at it most of the school year, and will join other Odyssey teams from area schools advancing from the regional competition held March 24th at Allegany-Limestone Middle/High School.

Part of the problem required by team members to solve is called spontaneous. This is “top secret,” where kids must think on their feet. Spectators are not allowed here, and only team members and judges enter the room. Questions might be verbal or hands-on, or may call for both. In any event, students should expect the unexpected.

What the audience sees is the long-term part of the problem, where students are evaluated on their solution to the problem, as well as their style. It is here where much ground work, the making of costumes, and building of sets takes place in preparation for an eight-minute performance. And all work must be done by the team members themselves.

One of the Ellicottville teams advancing to states is made up of younger students, in Division 1, who are taking on the “Triathlon Travels” problem. Their goal is to ride on and drive an original vehicle while trying to score in “curling,” hit the right targets when “jousting,” and run “track” by navigating a course in two directions. Their coach, Kevin McGuire, said the team is keeping busy for four days this week.

McGuire said the kids came up with a theme of recycling mixed with personal hygiene. The seven team members are fourth and fifth graders. He describes their vehicle as being made up of recycled or reclaimed wood. And it uses recycled wheelchair wheels, which were donated. How does it go? “Their front steering is similar to a red wagon you had when you were a kid, kind of like a pivot. Instead of using a steering wheel, they’ve actually got it configured to a tee-bar system. They use it as a steering stick.”

Everything the students used is recycled, except for two steel rods, because they couldn’t find anything used, according to McGuire.

The second and older team from Ellicottville, in Division 2, is made up of sixth and seventh graders who are tackling the Animal House structure problem. This team also elected to make recycling their theme, with the goal of the problem being to design a structure to hold as much weight as possible. This year, teams will turn their balsa wood structures into animals.

Coach Shawn Lafferty said the kids are using recycled materials in their skit, their backdrop, and their costumes. The students decided to go with a whale as their chosen animal, which must be “fed” during the performance. Their balsa wood structure held the highest weight of all teams competing at the regional competition, at 491.5 pounds in an eight-minute time limit.

The two Ellicottville teams will be joined by students from all across New York State who are competing in the same problems and age categories. They will be part of a full day of activity Saturday, April 7th, at Binghamton State University and Vestal Central School. Winners here will advance to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, in late May.