By Elizabeth Riggs

While many high school graduates fondly remember participation in athletics, band and choir, these days, Ellicottville students have even more options, including the growingly popular Odyssey of the Mind.

Odyssey of the Mind, an international educational program, provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college.

ECS Odyssey of the Mind Coordinator Colleen Bower has been involved with the program for 14 years, first starting as a coach when her son, who is now 23, was recommended by his teacher to be part of the program. According to her, though the subject matter of Odyssey of the Mind is undoubtedly different, it teaches students similar values to sports and other activities.

“It is very similar to sports,” Bower said. “Teams work together to reach the ultimate goal – winning the regional competition and advancing to the upper level competitions. Odyssey of the Mind is a great way for students to use their creative thinking skills and team working skills to come up with fantastic solutions to very complex and involved problems.”

In Odyssey of the Mind, team members use creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. Solutions are then presented to competition on the local, state, and world level, which includes thousands of teams throughout the United States, as well as from 25 other countries.

ECS has been involved with Odyssey of the Mind for decades, and has had multiple successful teams in past years. In 2013, a team of high school students placed second at the state competition, and in 2015, a team of fourth and fifth graders finished second at SUNY Binghamton, both advancing to the World

Finals at Michigan State University.

“This year we have four teams competing in the regional competition in Wellsville on Saturday, March 25—three elementary teams (Div.1) and one middle school team (Div. 2),” said Bower. “In October, the team members were selected and the coaches chose a long-term problem for their teams to solve.

These solutions are very involved and take months to perfect. Many teams practice three or more days a week after school and again on Saturdays.”

In addition to their assigned problems, as part of Odyssey, students also must prepare for another part of the competition called Spontaneous.

“This is the ‘think on your feet’ part of the competition,” said Bower. “The teams do not know what will be asked of them until they enter the competition site, so we started Spontaneous Saturdays at our school to help prepare the teams for that part of the competition.”

This year’s ECS teams include: Division 1 – Odd-a- Bot: Allison Pfeffer, Emma Lafferty, Katie Bless, Kara White, Mia Giannicchi, Tea Fuller, coached by John Pfeffer; Division 1 – It’s Time, OMER: Sophia Sundeen, Shelby Colburn, Adrynn Dederick, Colton Taylor, Jadyn Doutt, Gracie Conklin, Gwen DeChane, coached by Michele Sundeen; Division 1 – To Be Continued: A Superhero Cliffhanger: William Benatovich, Kyle Robinson, Morgan Krotz, Adelaide Weber, Keelin Finn, Evan Bauer, Mikey Kerns, coached by Katie Benatovich; and Division 2 – Catch Us If You Can: Alex Silvernail, Aidan Murray, Katie Krotz, Olivia Bacon, Jessi Rust, Katrina DeChane, coached by Clay Silvernail.

The ECS Odyssey teams are set for regional competition this Saturday, March 25 at Wellsville. Teams who finish first in the regional competition then continue on to the New York State competition at SUNY Binghamton on April 8.