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Creative minds show talents

By Terri Rafferty / Special to The Citizen
Saturday, March 14, 2009 11:52 PM EDT

AURELIUS - About 500 area students competed Saturday, showing off their skills, creativity and hard work at the annual Odyssey of the Mind regional competition at the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Regional Education Center.
The annual Odyssey of the Mind competitions are designed to promote teamwork and creativity, challenging teams to solve complex problems with more than one solution, to instill self -respect and respect for others and to teach students life skills in creative ways.

Odyssey of the Mind involves five problems, each applying a variety of skills and creativity levels.

"Odyssey is open to any student from kindergarten to college who wants to participate although for most students Odyssey counts as a recreational or after school activity," said Julie Ferrare a staging area judge. Ferrare has been a judge for three years and competed when she was a student.

One of the problems was Earth Trek, rooted in the modern day challenge of creating different modes of transportation that can sustain different environments. Students are required to design and build a small vehicle and settings for four environments where the vehicle adapts to each environment.

In Teach Yer Creature, students must solve an age old debate of how do animals know how to move for survival through instinct or watching other animals. The team must create and present an original humorous performance regarding the behavior of a mechanical animal creature and a creature teacher who teaches the animal.

"It's fun and challenging trying to figure out how to solve the problems presented," said Trisha Turner, 15, a sophomore at Port Byron. Her team started working in October of last year putting together their skits for the Teach Yer Creature competition which they ultimately won advancing to states.

The problem of the Lost Labor of Heracles is based on the ancient Greek myth of the most powerful Greek hero. The problem that students must tackle is designing an original performance that includes Heracles' 12 classic labors, a new labor created by the team and the reason it was lost in history, an artistic representation of a god or goddess that comes to life, as well as a team created mythological creature and an additional team created character.

The Skaneateles Middle School Team B tackled the problem by dressing in sandals with crowns of leaves adorning their heads and were draped in white sheets channeling the wardrobes of the ancient mythical gods. The team put their creativity to work introducing Polly, the 8-year-old daughter of a god who is told not to touch a statue for the trouble it brings. She touches it by accident and brings to life a creature made of a combination of duck and armadillo. Heracles is made into a god once he saves Polly from the creature.

Shockwaves challenges students to design, build and test a structure made out of balsa wood and glue. The structure must be able to withstand shockwaves caused by pulling spacers between some of the weights that are being supported by the structure. Teams received additional scores for how much weight their structures could withstand, and the creativity of how they place the structure onto the tester.

Weedsport junior Jordan Roe, 16, has been performing in Odyssey of the Mind competitions for eight years. "It is so much fun to hang out with each other. The whole teams is really close," Roe said.

Both Roe and teammate junior Erin Daly, 16, competed in the Schockwave competition. Their structure didn't break as it withstood 641 pounds, winning them the competition and sending them to the next level of competition.

"We totally were not prepared for this two days ago. We had fun hanging out and cramming together to prepare for the event," Roe said.

As part of their challenge, the Weedsport Division III team based its performance on sounds rather than speaking using garbage lids to re-create the popular music of Stomp. They even made a skirt out of old math homework for one of their teammates to wear.

"Sometimes the costumes are ridiculous but you have a blast wearing them and laugh it off," Roe said.

When it comes to judging standards they are as complex and creative as the problems for teams to solve with many factors.

"Students are judged on style, problem solving, ideas presented, and the direction of the overall skit," regional competition director Tony Abbatiello said.

As teams move on from the regionals advancing to states and potentially world Odyssey of the Mind competitions they can work on improving and fixing their skits. In the case of the Shockwave competition students have to rebuild their structures each time said Abbatiello.

Among the awards presented was for the 2009 Odyssey of the Mind pin design contest which went to Emily Cosbar of Skaneateles High School.

Teams who won the regional in their divisions will compete in the state competition on April 4th at SUNY Binghamton April 4 and the winners of this competition will advance to the World finals at Iowa State University in May.

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