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Odyssey of the Mind returns this weekend at Watertown High School


Almost 400 students will compete in the 25th annual Odyssey of the Mind competition for Region 9 schools Saturday.

The public is invited to the event at Watertown High School. Competitions will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the awards ceremonies beginning about 1:30 p.m.

“The kids have been presented the same questions worldwide,” said Tina L. Groff, South Jefferson Central School computer technician and Region 9 problem captain. “It’s going to be amazing to see what the kids come up with.”

The competition will host 392 students on 56 teams from kindergarten through 12th grade. The event is expected to be monitored by 136 judges and volunteers.

The Odyssey of the Mind offers students an opportunity to develop links among academic subjects such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, history, literature, creative writing, art, music and drama. The competition includes a variety of problems, from building mechanical devices to interpreting literary classics.

In October, teams of seven students were presented with five problems to find a creative and innovative solution.

“Each problem has six pages of rules and a budget for how much they can spend on their projects,” Ms. Groff said. “They have six minutes to perform a skit.”

Students have been preparing since October to come up with solutions to one of five problems: “Driver’s Test,” where teams design, build and drive a vehicle that will travel a course at least two times where a student driver attempts to complete tasks needed to pass a driver’s test; “The Not-So-Haunted House” where teams must create and present an original performance that includes a “pop-up-style” not-so-haunted “house” in which four special effects take place; “The Stackable Structure,” in which teams design and build a structure made up of separate components stacked on top of one another; “Seeing Is Believing,” where teams are asked to create and present an original performance about a community that feels threatened by something in a location they have never visited; and “Primary: The World’s First Art Festival,” where teams create and present an original and humorous performance about a prehistoric art festival.

Ms. Groff said each year the challenges are different but there is always a performance challenge, a technical challenge or a challenge using balsa wood to create structures.

The goals of the competition are for students to learn about cooperative teamwork, evaluate ideas, make decisions and create solutions.

Ms. Groff said the students not only need to perform their prepared presentation, but must solve a spontaneous problem.

“No one knows what it’s going to be till they get in that room,” she said.

One of the unusual challenges this year’s contestants have faced is the amount of school they have missed because of school cancellations or early dismissals.

“I think everyone in the region is in the same boat on this one, but many have a lot of practices,” Ms. Groff said.

Finalists will participate in the New York State Odyssey of the Mind Competition on April 12 at SUNY Binghamton. They also have the potential to be finalists for the World Finals held May 28 through 31 at Iowa State University, in Ames.

“Our tournament is supported entirely by volunteers from the school districts and local communities,” wrote Marcy J. Grenier, lead supervisor with the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

For more information about the competition, visit or call Ms. Grenier at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, 779-7000.

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