By Mary Heyl

On Saturday, March 14, Ellicottville Central School sent five teams to compete at the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition held at Randolph Central School.

Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is an international educational program for teams of elementary through college students to solve problems using creative thinking, brainstorming, teamwork and problem solving skills.

Colleen Bower, first grade teacher and OM coordinator at ECS, has had teams go on to the state competition for several years, and on Saturday she was pleased to add another year to this winning record as two teams took first place in their divisions and are heading to SUNY Binghamton in April.

In September, students were given five long-term problems to solve with their teammates in preparation for the regional competition last week. Problems range from the mechanical (design a vehicle to travel on tracks without touching the floor) to the classical (translate the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box to a multi-level video game). 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.

Third grade teacher Leah Klahn’s Division I team placed first for their interpretation of Problem 5: “The Silent Movie.

The team created a performance depicting a “director” character who produces and presents a silent movie. The team featured a comedic villain character who committed three humorous acts of “villainy.” In classic early cinema style, the team’s performance allowed no speaking parts, but instead used music to convey suspense, emotion and action. In addition to creating the performance, the team was responsible for working within the $125 budget that was allotted. Miss Klahn is very excited to go on to Binghamton, as is her team of seven students: Mandy Hurlburt, Matthew Ives, Katie Krotz, Daniel Pfeffer, Christian Swalcy, Alysa Williams and Elsa Woodarek.

First grade teacher Caitlyn Keller’s Division II team placed first in Problem 4: “Lose Your Marbles.”

This talented team of seven middle-school students presented their solution to this mechanical problem, which they spent most of the school year solving. Working within their $145 budget, the team built a structure made only of balsa wood and glue, which they designed to hold as much weight as possible. The structure held five marbles that were released one by one. This was accomplished by strategically removing one piece of the structure at a time to alter weight placement and control the release of each marble. Team members Kolby Aldrich, Patrick Dineen, Dairinn Finn, Brianna Freaney, Harrison Newark, Brianna Winship and David Winship successfully demonstrated their creation at regionals and are looking forward to proving their skills in Binghamton!

On Saturday, April 11, both teams will be competing against students in their respective divisions from all over the state. After the state competition, first and second place teams will move on to the World Finals, which will be held at Michigan State University from May 20 -23. More than 800 teams from all over the world will be competing and Bower hopes teams from ECS will be among them. Bower has taken teams to the World Finals twice, and is eager to add a third year to this outstanding record. Stay tuned for results after the state competition next month.