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Strong showing at state Odyssey of the Mind competition from the north country

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Today’s state Odyssey of the Mind Tournament at SUNY Binghamton has 10 teams from Region 8 competing for a chance to head to the World Championship.

Region 8 includes St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.

Teams from the Ogdensburg City School District, Gouverneur and Saranac Lake central schools will compete against students from across the state in a series of events designed to test their creativity and problem-solving skills.

The teams will compete with feats ranging from engineering skills to comedic performances. Coaches have been holding regular practice sessions gearing up for the state competition.

“We practiced at least twice a week for two hours at a time since October,” Kimberly Snyder, coach of an Ogdensburg team of seventh-grade girls, said. “At the end we were practicing pretty much every day.”

The girls on Mrs. Snyder’s team, named #Swag, took on the “It’s How You Look At It” problem.

“Basically they had to come up with a presentation that’s eight minutes or less to solve a whole bunch of criteria,” Mrs. Snyder said. “Each person has to exhibit behavior that they consider normal but other people think is odd.”

In the performance put on by Mrs. Snyder’s team, the girls demonstrate a person getting infected with flu. The show “starts outside the body and the flu virus goes inside the mouth and then the scene flips over and the rest of it takes place in the body.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Mrs. Snyder said. She said her team is looking forward to the competition.

Beth Siebels, a coach of seven elementary school children at Gouverneur Central School, said her team is also looking forward to Binghamton.

“They’re very excited,” Mrs. Siebels said.

Mrs. Siebels’s team is also giving its take on the “It’s How You Look At It” problem, though with a much different interpretation.

Mrs. Siebels’s team created a character named Big Bear who is a hip hop star.

“Then he goes to Hillbilly Outland full of hillbilly skunks and he doesn’t fit in,” she said.

The team will act out a scene where “Nutsy Squirrel,” an overly prepared creature, is a social outcast until an earthquake hits and everybody comes to Nutsy for help.

“It’s really funny,” Mrs. Siebels said.

The other team from Gouverneur advancing to states this year is coached by Jill Phaneuf and composed of five sixth-graders and one first-grader.

This team is taking on the “Pet Project” problem, in which they have to make three small, self-propelled vehicles that transport building blocks to a designated location.

After the team gets the building blocks they have to build a replica of an animal and make it do a trick.

The cars on Mrs. Phaneuf’s team are propelled by lego wind-up bricks, rubber bands and mousetraps.

Once the cars have delivered the animal’s pieces, the team will make “a mouse and the mouse goes by itself and then drives into a snake that eats it,” Mrs. Phaneuf said.

William E. Wilson, overseer of the Odyssey of the Mind program at Saranac Lake Central School, said the district has four teams, two of which are comprised of elementary students, going to Binghamton.

“I just want them to do their best,” Mr. Wilson said.

Of the Saranac Lake teams, a middle school and elementary school team is doing a problem that involves building a structure and creating a skit based on it.

Another middle school team will be building a balsa wood structure that has to hold a significant amount of weight. Mr. Wilson said the structure the team built for the regional competition managed to hold 500 pounds.

The final team from Saranac Lake was a surprise. Mr. Wilson said an elementary team working on the “It’s How You Look At It” problem which took second place at the regional competition but won a lottery spot at the state competition.

“It’s a skit that has to have a lot of humor in it,” Mr. Wilson said. “We finished our last rehearsal [Thursday night].”

Thirteen teams from Region 9, including Jefferson and Lewis counties, are also competing in the state competition.

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