| Watertown Daily News |
Costumes, contraptions among oddities at OFA

By JIMMY LAWTON
OGDENSBURG -- If you passed by Ogdensburg Free Academy on Saturday, you might have thought it was Halloween.

Students from nine school districts flooded the hallways, some draped in paper plates, others in exotic dresses. They were preparing for the regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament, an event that challenges students to solve complicated problems in creative ways.

Cindy L. and Gregory K. Downey, regional directors of Odyssey of the Mind, said the competition comes down to one thing.

"Basically it shows that creativity can be taught. Kids work together using creativity and teamwork to solve complex problems," Mr. Downey said. "It's about divergent thinking."

Mrs. Downey said only 10 of the 25 competing teams will advance to the state tournament March 26 in Binghamton.

"These students have been working on these problems since October," she said. "We want to stress that all of these students who have put in the amount of time and effort it takes to prepare for this are already winners."

And while it is always fun to win, students who competed said it's actually more about having fun.

Skyler R. Buckley, a student from Saranac Lake, said he competed because he enjoys the challenge.

"It's fun. When everything comes together, it's impressive to see that you can do so much with so little," he said.

He has been competing in Odyssey of the Mind for three years.

He and his two teammates were solving a problem to construct cars and a helicopter powered only by mousetraps. Less than an hour before they were set to complete the project, all three students were continuing to tweak and modify their contraptions.

"We have to complete trials with these vehicles," he said.

Teammate Adam D. Cross Jr. has been participating in Odyssey of the Mind since he was in fourth grade.

"It's just something that I think is fun," he said. "Basically you get to play with toys. Every year there is at least one challenge where you have to build something. It's like you get to be a kid again."

He said his team has been preparing since November for about two hours a week. Other teams spend even more time.

The competition included 25 teams consisting of some 175 students from nine districts across three counties. Competing this year were students from St. Lawrence Central, Gouverneur, Lisbon, Madrid-Waddington, Ogdensburg, Potsdam, Petrova Elementary at Saranac Lake, Saranac Lake Middle School and Harrisville Central School.

St. Lawrence County has hosted an Odyssey of the Mind competition each year since 1983. OFA began hosting the regional competition in 1995.


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