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Ichabod Crane's 'Odyssey of the Mind' team to go to state finals

By Robert Lachman
VALATIE -- The Odyssey of the Mind competition is an international educational program that gets kids to think "out of the box." They are given a problem they'd like to solve and can be as creative as they want in solving it.

This year a team from Ichabod Crane's Martin H. Glynn Elementary School won first place at Rensaeleer High School, where the first stage of the competition was held in February. A total of 76 teams compete from around the state and the first place teams go on to the state finals, which will be held March 27 at the SUNY campus in Binghamton.

The winning team from Martin H. Glynn Elementary consisted of six fourth-graders and one third-grader, who had to choose one of five problems to solve. According to their teacher Carrie Dugan, they picked the one that dealt with aircraft and flight.

"What they had to do was create and operate a series of aircraft that would complete a variety of flight plans," Dugan said. This included flying straight, making a target spin, traveling slowly, dropping something onto a target, landing and taking off, and a mass launch of aircraft. "It's a really amazing program and they actually consulted NASA on one of the problems," Dugan said.

Their coach, Karen Schoemer, is the mother of Loretta Salzburg, one of the competitors. It is Schoemer's second year as an Odyssey of the Mind coach. "First, I had to get over the idea that they would build planes because they are so young," she said. "Instead we took a private tour of the Empire State AeroScience Museum in Schenectady so they could get ideas."

Schoemer explained how they solved the problems and it's no wonder they came in first. For flying straight they put silly putty on a kitchen spoon to send it flying. For making a target spin, John Wheeler built a rocket out of a paper towel tube, wrapped it in foil, built a gong out of a metal pie plate for the target and used a handmade slingshot to fire the rocket at the gong, making it spin. For "flying slow", third-grader Dylan Rapp built a helium balloon with a weight on it and used a straw to blow on it so it would speed up or slow down.

"They do the whole thing like a skit or a play," said Schoemer. "One girl (Hope Hammond) played 'Ginger' Erhardt and one of the boys (Peyton Mavrides) played 'Sir Chomp' Lindbergh and they were fighting an evil gingerbread man (played by John Wheeler)." Salzburg played a baker who mistakenly dumps toxic sludge into cookie dough and creates the evil gingerbread man.

The mass launch of aircraft was designed by Kristen Bertrand who built a 'leaning contraption' out of gift-wrap tubes, paper plates and packing tape. "She pours confetti in the tube and another kid puts a hairdryer into the bottom and then blows the confetti out of the tube," Schoemer explained. "I thought it was all very creative and very much in the spirit of the program." The judges obviously agreed and now it's on to Binghamton for the State tournament. If they win that they will have to compete in the world finals in May.

"They did everything themselves. They wrote the script, painted the airplanes and did everything else," Shoemer said. "I just tried to keep them focused, and anytime they made me laugh I tried to keep it in the script."

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