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Apr 11, 2018 11:38 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Elementary School's Odyssey Of The Mind Team Makes History

The team shows off
Apr 11, 2018 12:15 PM

Seven Westhampton Beach Elementary School fifth-graders made school history last week when they captured first place at Odyssey of the Mind’s statewide competition at Binghamton University, punching their ticket to the world finals next month in Iowa.

James Monserrate, Lily Graves, Fahtima Iqbal, Jamie Kelly, Maya Farnan, Lily Pereyra and Cole Dawson bested 17 teams from across New York State to take home “Albie,” a two-tiered, gold-plated trophy, for their first-place finish in Binghamton. It now sits beside “Angelia,” the first-place regional trophy that they brought home to Westhampton Beach just last month.

“We did not think that we were going to get first place,” James said of the state competition while gathered around his teammates and their Odyssey of the Mind coach, math and technology teacher Kathy Haack, on Tuesday afternoon. “At the end, some of us were crying.”

“I was crying my heart out!” Lily said.

James, Lily and their classmates make up the school’s Odyssey of the Mind team, and their competitions are focused on creative problem-solving. The kids—who auditioned for the team in September, besting 18 other students—were given a scenario early in the school year, and then spent months preparing a skit, complete with set design, props and costumes, to play out their solution.

Each problem is rife with limitations and boxes to check to increase the team’s score. There’s also a spontaneity component, forcing team members to think on their feet.

This year, the Westhampton Beach team is using a scenario called “A Stellar Hangout,” where they have to find ways through the skit to find commonality between aliens from different planets, a human and a non-human being—in this case, a puppet, played by James.

For their efforts in Binghamton, the students will get to compete in the world finals at Iowa State University from May 23 to 26, when they will have a chance to bring home a third trophy in as many months.

It was not immediately clear how many teams Westhampton Beach will be pitted against at the world tournament. Last year’s competition, held at Michigan State University, attracted more than 830 teams, though that figure also included middle and high school Odyssey of the Mind teams from around the world.

“They’re very excited,” Ms. Haack said on Tuesday of her students. “This is the first time that Westhampton Beach has ever gone to world competition.”

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