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Odyssey of the Mind to attract thousands Tier students eager to show creativity

By Debbie Swartz
Press & Sun-Bulletin

VESTAL -- About 4,000 students, coaches and proud parents will descend on Binghamton University today for the Odyssey of the Mind state finals.

The competition begins at 8 a.m. and will take place at various locations throughout the campus. Students from area school districts are scheduled to compete, including Vestal, Binghamton, Sherburne-Earlville, Chenango Valley, Maine-Endwell, Sidney and Seton Catholic Central. There are five problems to solve and three divisions in the competition.

The Vestal High School team -- competing in the "Tag 'em" competition -- is looking forward to the competition. While members Kegan Pitarresi, 17, and Evan Arnold, 15, said they aren't much for the limelight, the costumes they created for the event give them a little anonymity. Member LeeAnne Ruffo, 16, said she enjoys just about everything associated with Odyssey of the Mind.

"I like just being able to express my creativity," she said.

"Tag 'em" requires each team to design and build two independently powered vehicles -- no remote controls -- which have to pick up objects. Any objects the vehicles fail to pick up must be explained through a storyline.

For the Vestal team, one vehicle is a mining machine and the other is a time travel machine. Each must gather supplies and fuel to allow Lord Nagek to travel back in time to prevent a war before it begins. Any objects the vehicles fail to pick up during the competition, Arnold and Pitarresi said, will be explained as inferior supplies that would have hindered time travel.

Team coach Glenna Pitarresi said Odyssey of the Mind offers great opportunity for the students.

"It lets them do their thing and learn," she said. "It's such a neat thing."

The district is supportive of participating students, Pitarresi said, especially Nikki Corgel, the chairwoman of the school's art department. "Mrs. Corgel has been wonderful to them," she said.

And while the team is excited about the competition, Pitarresi said, she is looking forward to seeing each team's performances. "I'm just curious to see the range of creations made by the other kids," she said.

BU has hosted the state tournament for more than 15 years, spokesman Ryan Yarosh said.

"This is an event we are proud to host year after year," he said, "and the entire campus community pitches in to make sure everything runs smoothly."

The competition, Yarosh said, provides BU with an opportunity to showcase the campus and many competitors return to the university as entering freshmen.

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