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BOCES to host Odyssey of the Mind tourney

By Kelly Voll
AUBURN -- A few hundred students from the nine Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES component school districts will likely be nervously running around the BOCES building Saturday as they prepare to impress judges in the regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

The annual tournament is for regional OM teams; this year there are 55 teams between the nine districts. In the scholastic problem-solving competition, each of the teams tackles one of five problem statements and presents a solution in a timed presentation in front of judges who score each team. A new set of problems is developed each year.

Teams are split up into three divisions. Division I is for grades three through five; division II is for grades six through eight; and division III is for grades nine through 12.

Tournament coordinator Deb Daloia said at all grade levels, students are learning teamwork, collaboration, brainstorming and resourcefulness.

Team members work together to come up with a creative solution to one of the five problems.

There is a monetary budget within which they must work, and strict rules about just how much help the team can get from its coach.

Although the adult coach can give guidance, the solution and its execution must be completely created by the students, Daloia said.

Daloia said the skills students pick up in OM can sometimes translate directly to positive job interviews when they reach the working world.

"They're developing life skills," she said. "That really carries a lot of weight and for some employers it's a key skill to have."

Besides the skills each child learns individually, each must learn to function as a tight-knit team.

"It's really invaluable," Daloia said. "The kids have to learn to develop a rapport with their teammates."

The students have several months to build this closeness. OM teams form in September each year.

After the March 12 regional tournament, teams who placed first will move on to states, to be held March 26 at Binghamton University.

Teams who place first or second at states are invited to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, to be held from May 27 to 30 this year at the University of Maryland.

Last year, a division I team from the Cato-Meridian Central School District not only made it to worlds, but was one of 15 winning teams in the international tournament, which reportedly drew 813 teams and 16,000 people from 34 states and 14 countries.

Daloia said the Cato-Meridian team most likely did not expect to go to worlds back in March 2010, when it was just starting out at the regional competition.

"Given Cato's run last year, anything is possible," she said. "You never know."

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or kelly.voll@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

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