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Contest puts minds over matter

Nearly 600 students from 90 teams from across the Capital District came together Saturday, Feb. 28, to participate in the Capital Region BOCES Odyssey of the Mind Tournament held on the Mohonasen Central School District's campus in Rotterdam. The daylong competition challenged young people to come up with the most creative, original and imaginative solutions to open-ended problems. Among the participating school districts were Mohonasen and Schalmont central school districts.

A strong showing by Scotia Glenville students means the district will be sending three groups of students to the state competition at Binghamton University. Mohonasen Central School District is sending one team.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competition where teams of five to seven children in similar age groups work together to solve a long-term problem, said Mindi Iannotti, Capital Region BOCES Program Manager for Special Student Services. "They do all kinds of things creatively and collaboratively to work together to solve the problem."

Students incorporate their own skills and interests into the solutions " interests that include singing, playing instruments, skating or gymnastics " anything that will help the students solve one of five problems.

The first problem was called Earth Trek, where teams had to design and build a small vehicle that could transform its appearance four times as it travels around the world.

Another example of a problem teams could solve was called the Lost Labor of Heracles, where Ancient Greece was revived in a performance depicting Heracles' 12 labors and a "lost labor" that is created by the team. In Shockwaves, teams designed a balsa wood structure that weighed no more than 15 paper clips and supported weights. These lightweight structures are known to hold over 1,000 pounds. The structure also had to be able to absorb and withstand "shockwaves" from falling weights.

Iannotti said that these aren't necessarily "problems" one thinks of as an adult, where a clear solution is needed " sometimes the solutions to these problems are coming up with a clear way to express something or how to relay a story.

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