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Odyssey of the Mind competition challenges students' creativity at solving problems

By George Basler

DICKINSON -- Paula Ala Mode went on trial for attempted murder Saturday at the Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services' center on Glenwood Road.

Her intended victim was Pom A. Granite who had angered her by saying she was too full of sugar and trans fats.

These are not their real names.

Ala Mode and Granite were characters in a skit created by a team of seven fifth-graders from the Whitney Point Central School District who competed in the New York Region 12 Odyssey of the Mind competition, which marked its 26th anniversary this year.

The annual competition requires students from elementary to high school to form teams of five to seven people each to solve one of five problems. The teams work together for months and then present their solutions with a theatrical flair, complete with handmade costumes and scenery, at the competition.

In addition, the teams must show quick thinking in a "spontaneous" round. The idea is to be as creative, and wacky, as imaginations will allow.

"We get to let our creative juices flow and hang out with people we like to hang out with," said Brooke Bart, 15, who competed on a team from Maine-Endwell High School.

"I'm pretty odd myself so this is perfect for me," her teammate, Kristin McCabe, 15, added, with a laugh.

Odyssey has grown to feature competitions across the United States and in about 25 foreign countries since its start in 1978.

The Region 12 competition Saturday featured 128 teams from 44 schools in Horseheads, Lansing and the 13 school districts in Broome and eastern Tioga counties, organizes said. The top teams from the regional competition, plus five second-place teams picked by lottery, will move on to the state competition at Binghamton University on March 27.

"They're learning skills that don't come through a textbook and don't get tested on the state assessments -- problem-solving, teamwork and communication," said Lynette Bryan, director of the Odyssey of the Mind competition for Region 12.

Winners at the state level will advance to the World Finals at Michigan State University May 26-29.

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