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Odyssey draws record number of teams

By Tom Caprood

RENSSELAER — Saturday was all about problem solving for students from more than 13 Capital District school districts who competed in the annual Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

A record number of 75 teams from the districts, as well as both private and home-school programs, competed throughout the day at Rensselaer High School, performing skits that they devised to solve one of six open-ended problems.

The event, which was organized by Questar III, was designed to stress teamwork and creativity while helping students build the skills necessary to be successful later in life.

Tournament organizer Arlene Sampson said this year’s event boasted the highest number of participants the local competition has ever had.

Two new school districts joined the program as well, including Coxsackie-Athens and Cairo-Durham, which unfortunately was unable to make it to the event because of the weather.

“I just think it’s a really good enrichment activity that has parameters so that kids can learn to be creative totally on their own,” said Sampson. “We always say, ‘Hands on for kids, hands off for adults.’ That’s the big motto.”

In addition to middle and high school teams, the competition also featured seven primary teams consisting of students ranging in grade level from kindergarten to second grade.

Instead of scores, all of the youngsters received ribbons and stickers as a reward for their hard work and participation.

“We try to bring their principals and their superintendents to present them with ribbons when they finish,” said Sampson. “It’s fun to see the whole range of people in the school district come and participate.”

Sitting on the bleachers in one of the many gyms and classrooms used as performance locations, Damon Stewart, and his wife, Tina, watched their 13-year-old son, Ian, participate in one of Rensselaer Middle School’s presentations.

The open-ended problem the group was solving was known as “Food Court,” where students had to present a humorous performance where a food was accused of being unhealthy and had to defend itself among its food peers.

The middle school students chose to portray ranch dressing as one unhealthy food found in a refrigerator. While others portrayed healthy items like cheese, lettuce, and meat, one student attempted to defend the ranch name by citing its great taste and how salads were horrible and plain without him.

Stewart believed his son, who portrayed a block of cheese serving as a judge in the debate, got a lot out of the experience.

“It forced him to think for himself and expand his creativity,” said Stewart. “It’s a lot about independence and problem solving.”

Donna Denny, of Rotterdam, who served as the head judge for the Food Court section, said that teams were judged on the quality and creativity of their presentations, as well as the performances of the characters they were portraying.

“We look for humor,” said Denny, who noted the high school students typically delved a bit deeper into their solutions than younger students.

This year also marked the first time the event was held in the Rensselaer School District since their new facilities were constructed. In recent years, the Odyssey was hosted by Tamarac High School in the Averill Park School District.

“We like to spread the fun,” said Sampson.

“We like different school districts to have the opportunity to host this,” she continued. “Once they got the new facility, they said, ‘We really want you to come here,’ and it’s worked out great.”

Other school districts involved included Averill Park, Brunswick, Catskill, East Greenbush, Hoosic Valley, Hudson, Ichabod Crane, Lansingburgh, Rensselaer, Schodack, Taconic Hills, and Wynantskill. The Old Kinderhook Scholars, Sacred Heart School, St. Mary’s of Hoosick Falls, and the Susan Odell Taylor School for Children also participated.

A total of 15 teams will move on to the state tournament at Binghamton University on March 27, with state winners advancing to the world finals at Michigan State University from May 26-29.

Tom Caprood can be reached at 270-1278 or by e-mail at tcaprood@troyrecord.com.

Region Four Odyssey of the Mind Winners:

(Winners are listed by problem and division)

Problem 1:  Nature Trail’R


1. Green Meadow Elementary, East Greenbush Central School District.

2. Tamarac Elem. School, Brunswick Central School District.

3. Martin Van Buren Elementary, Ichabod Crane Central School District.


1. Knickerbacker MS, Lansingburgh Central School District .

2. Algonquin Middle School, Averill Park.

3. Hudson Junior High School.


1. Catskill High School.

Problem 2:  Return to the Gift of Flight


1. Martin H. Glynn Elementary, Ichabod Crane CSD

2. Sacred Heart School.

3. West Sand Lake Elementary, Averill Park.


1. Averill Park High School, Team A.

Problem 3: Discovered Treasures


1. Sacred Heart School.

2. Tamarac Elementary, Brunswick.


1. Gardiner-Dickinson School, Wynantskill Union Free School District .

2. Algonquin Middle School, Averill Park.

3. Knickerbacker Middle School, Lansingburgh.


1. Averill Park High School TM.

2. Ichabod Crane High School.

3. Averill Park High School Team A.

Problem 4:  Column Structure


1. West Sand Lake Elementary, Averill Park.

2. Bell Top Elementary, East Greenbush.


1. St. Mary’s Academy, Hoosick Falls.

2. Taconic Hills Middle School.


1. Maple Hill High School, Schodack Central School District.

2. Rensselaer High School.

Problem 5:  Food Court


1. George Washington Elementary, Averill Park.

2. Tamarac Elementary, Brunswick.

3. Miller Hill/Sand Lake, Averill Park.


1. Algonquin Middle School, Averill Park.

2. Hoosic Valley Elementary/Middle School, Hoosic Valley Central School District.

3. Old Kinderhook Schools (Home school)


1. Averill Park High School Team A.

2. Catskill High School.

3. Averill Park High School Team B.

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