Victory in Binghamton

| 22 Feb 2012 | 05:21

Three M-W teams advance to international Odyssey of the Mind competition, By Nancy Kriz CENTRAL VALLEY - The collective odysseys of three Monroe-Woodbury Odyssey of the Mind (OM) teams are continuing after their success at last weekend’s state competition in Binghamton. Those teams spent hundreds of hours solving a challenge posed by OM officials, designed to test the limitless boundaries of their creative and problem resolution skills. They first had to win the regional competition, held last month, in order to advance to last weekend’s statewide tournament. Now, their victories earn them a place at the international OM competition, to be held May 27 to 30 at the University of Maryland at College Park. The contest is fierce and rivals the best team preparation and playing practices seen in sporting competitions. Earning first-place honors was the high school team of David Sierra, Matt Taguer, Nuo Min Huang, Katie Bompensiero, Saharsh Hajela, Jesse Meshulam and Bradley Morton who tackled the “Problem 3: Le Tour Guide.” Also earning first place in its division was the middle school team with members Katie Kern, Ankit Juneja, Jordan Glass, Nicole Finnegan, Jensen Rodenheiser, Brandon Elezovic and Brianna Reilly for their execution of “Problem 5: Full Circle.” And, another high school team which placed second in its division will exercise its option to participate at world finals as well. Team members Nicole Hoss, Christy Somers, Demi Siskind, Marisa Orozco, Hannah Hasin, Dan Cohen and Michael Rallo won second place in its division for “Problem 2: As Good as Gold...berg.” It comes down to eight minutes The national Odyssey of the Mind organization policy is to invite second place teams to compete, but the policy of the Monroe-Woodbury School District is to only pay for first place teams to travel and participate. Team members said they will shortly launch an eight-week fundraising drive to raise $5,500, which would cover all the costs associated with world competition. They said they have the full support of all OM teams who offered to help them with fundraising. As that takes place, the three teams are grateful to have eight weeks to review judges’ comments, create performance enhancements and spend hours in additional practice, to be ready to compete in a field of 800 teams representing 30 states and 28 countries. “You have to anticipate, they’re (other competing teams) are going to be better than you so you want to up your game,” said Saharsh Hajela, a member of the “Le Tour Guide” team, on Tuesday afternoon. “Odyssey inspires you to work hard in everything you do. You’re going for the gold.” The “Le Tour Guide” team selected Amelia Bedelia, the protagonist and title character of a series of children’s books as its tour guide character, who is a ring thief/ring master. The idea for rings all started when the team thought of a circus tour having three rings. It incorporated this idea in its skit through the three different locations members are required to tour. A simplistic synopsis of their presentation has the Amelia-like character is in search of a new job, as his habits to only relay information and act literally have gotten him in trouble with his last one. The Amelia character takes his tourists, a sheriff and a deputy - who are in search of a ring master/thief -to their first stop, a boxing “ring” in the Wild West. The next stop is the San Augustine Cathedral in Laredo, Texas, known for its bell tower and stained glass windows. The last place visited is Hugo, Okla., a small town that used to serve as a rest stop during the winter months for the great American circuses back in their golden age. A dead horse comes back to life and the ring thief is caught through a series of events. In the end, all members come together in a circus inspired song and dance finale. 'There’s so much team work and effort, but in the end it comes down to those eight minutes,” said team member Nuo Min Huang. Their colleagues on the other high school team would agree. Their question, “As Good as Gold...berg,” requires them to present an uncomplicated existing item that is used in a simple and effective way to complete a real-life task. They also had to create their own solution, a device made out of an unnecessarily complex series of components that performs the same task as the existing item. Their skit is about an inventor, Dr. Hermes, who creates a living board game which needs to be run by energy. She comes up with the idea of using a girl named Milly to play her game because she is a child full of life and energy. Hermes and Milly go through different periods of time in the board game, including: “Dino Land,” “the 80s” and “the future.” “There is a real sense of accomplishment doing this, because you don’t have to do this,” said team member Nicole Hoss of her Odyssey experience thus far. “What you get out of your OM work will carry with you for your whole life.” Like other competing teams, they want to win. “It’s just such a rush to know that you have a chance,” said team member Christy Somers. “Just working with this group, we are now best friends, a family.” 'Problem 5’ There was equal jubilation at the middle school, where members of the “Problem 5: Full Circle” team gathered on Tuesday to begin their preparatory work for the competition. Their presentation focused on a pun involving a rock cycle. They created a “rock star” character - a member of a band - who would go through “geological” personality changes as he and his band changed from sedimentary rocks to molten magma, igneous rock, sediment and back to sedimentary rocks. Just as their high school counterparts praised their closeness and unity of their team, the middle schoolers also agreed they saw life lessons in their experience. “Thinking 'outside the box’ can give you more solutions that you can ever imagine,” said team member Nicole Finnegan. “Every idea begins with a great dream and you have to bounce off of others’ ideas.” Added team member Jordan Glass: “Use others’ strengths to help your weaknesses.” Those comments are music to ears of Debra Garling, the district’s gifted/talented coordinator who also coordinates the OM program. “I love that they not only problem solve but support each other,” she said. “In the real world, that’s what Odyssey is. Getting to (compete in) worlds is 'the win.’ Getting to meet like-minded kids who solved the same problem you did but in a different way teaches you so much. That’s a life lesson.”

There is a real sense of accomplishment doing this, because you don’t have to do this. What you get out of your OM work will carry with you for your whole life.’ Odyssey of the Mind participant Nicole Hoss, talking about her Odyssey experience thus far.

All M-W teams place in their divisions
While three of the five Monroe-Woodbury teams won the right to participate in the world finals in May, the two other teams placed in the top three for their selected problems within their divisions in the statewide competition.
Earning third place honors were the team from the Middle School for its presentation of “Problem 2: As Good as Gold…berg” and the North Main Elementary team for its presentation of “Problem 3: Le Tour Guide.”

Second place high school team to launch $5,500 fundraising campaign to attend world competition
CENTRAL VALLEY - In the world of Odyssey of the Mind, a second place finish in state competition doesn’t mean you’re excluded from world competition.
But in the Monroe-Woodbury School District world, it means second place teams have to raise the money themselves to participate in the international contest.
District policy only covers the cost of first place teams to attend. Two years ago, when a North Main Elementary team won second place status, its team members were so committed to the OM experience that they raised close to $12,000 in only eight week’s time to attend the world competition at the University of Iowa.
The high school team, which placed second in its division for its presentation for “Problem 2: As Good as Gold..berg” is equally determined to be part of world competition and is finalizing its plan to raise the $5,500 to get the team to Maryland in May.
Expenses are less because Maryland is closer and air travel is not required.
Debra Garling, the district’s OM coordinator, and expressed confidence the students would raise that amount of money they would need according to the deadlines they would be facing. In fact, she said, OM teams from the different schools have pledged their assistance to help the high school team raise the money.
“That is the OM spirit,” she said. “They’re doing what they need to do help another.”
Team members were equally confident they would be successful.
“We plan on having a spaghetti dinner during the end of April including silent auctions, etc.,” team member Christy Somers wrote in an email to The Photo News. “We also plan on setting up a fund raiser night with the local McDonald’s in Monroe, selling candy and possibly raffling off some sort of TV or iPad.” - Nancy Kriz