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Four Odyssey Teams Head to States


By Mary Heyl

On Saturday, March 12, Ellicottville Central School sent five teams to compete at the Odyssey of the Mind Region 19 Tournament at Allegany-Limestone Central School. Program Coordinator Colleen Bower reports that four of these teams will be going on to the state competition at Binghamton in just two weeks!

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program for teams of elementary through college students to solve problems using creative thinking, brainstorming, teamwork, and problem solving skills. Bower, who also teaches first grade at ECS, has had teams go on to the state competition for several years.

This year’s program gave students the choice of one of five long-term problems to solve with their teammates in preparation for the regional competition last week. Students work in teams of five to seven students, all of whom are in the same age division. Division I consists of elementary students (fourth and fifth grade); division II consists of middle school students (sixth through eighth grade); and division III consists of high school students. This year, ECS had five teams: three in Division I and two in Division II.

Members of Coach JoAnn Kurtis’ Division II team took first place in the “No-Cycle Recycle” Problem. In this scenario, students consider the environmental impact of recycling by building, riding and driving a recycling vehicle that moves without pedals and deposits recyclables to places to be re-used. Team members Lucas Adams, Isaac Alexander, Andrew Bolya, Dairinn Finn, Brianna Freaney, and Carly Neumann are excited to be moving on to SUNY Binghamton, where they will be presenting their solution against teams across New York State.

Another ECS team took first place with the “Something Fishy” problem. Coach Vicky Williams’ Division I team put their creative abilities to the test in this scenario, in which students designed a machine to simulate different styles of fishing and demonstrated it through a dramatic performance. Students portrayed different roles including the angler, as well as the potential catch that doesn’t want to be caught! Coach Williams is proud of her group of fourth and fifth grade students who are moving on to the state competition: Evan Bauer, Emmylu Carls, Aiden Harrington, Allison Pfeffer, Ryah Quinn, Sofia Royer, and Alysa Williams.

For Problem 3, Coach Danielle Hall’s team honed their dramatic abilities through a performance based on one of Aesop’s fables. The team members not only chose a fable to perform, but they also emphasized the moral lesson as “going viral,” meaning it was rapidly shared throughout the community and beyond! Team members William Benatovich, Shelby Colburn, Gwen DeChane, Katrina DeChane, Ben Hoganmiller, Alex Silvernail and Sarah Weber created a performance set in an historic era in which the narrator shares the fable and one of the characters misinterprets the moral and is corrected. Their excellent performance in this problem earned them a place at the state competition next month!

Coach Leah Klahn is returning to the state competition (her team last year also went to States) with her Division II team members who are eager to compete against other teams in Problem 5: “Furs, Fins, Feathers & Friends.” For Problem 5, students created a comical performance that portrays problem solving from the perspective and experience of three different animals who are all working to save the animal population from an outside threat. The performance incorporates singing and dancing in order to show the animals’ range of emotions. Team members Willow Comstock-Eastlick, Mandy Hurlbut, Matthew Ives, Daniel Pfeffer, Emma Steffenhagen, Kelsea Tomczak, and Elsa Woodarek will be singing and dancing all the way to SUNY Binghamton next month!

        On Saturday, April 2, these four teams will be competing against students in their respective divisions from 20 other New York regions at SUNY Binghamton. After the state competition, first and second place teams move on to the World Finals at Iowa State University from May 25 to May 28. More than 800 teams from all over the world will be competing, and Bower hopes teams from ECS will be among them. In Bower’s 13 years with the Odyssey program, ECS students have worked their way to World Finals three times, and this year’s teams are looking forward to adding another year to this impressive record. Stay tuned for ECS’s results after the state competition next month!

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