Five local Odyssey of the Mind teams took top honors at the 28th Piedmont Regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament on Saturday, March 7 at Franklin County High School.

Teams from Windy Gap Elementary, Lee M. Waid Elementary, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and Franklin County High School won their respective divisions in different categories.

All five teams will represent the region at the state competition, set for April 18 in Newport News.

“Students have spent months of their free time solving these problems, as well as developing teamwork skills, independent study, friendships, confidence and most importantly, improving their problem-solving abilities,” said OM Regional Director Melinda Wickline. “They learn new things and utilize their strengths to solve the problem.”

Lee M. Waid placed first in the “Gibberish or Not” category for Division I.

In this category, or problem, teams were required to create a performance explaining why a child does not reveal the truth that what they believe is wisdom was really just gibberish.

“These individual students became teams through hard work, collaboration, communication and creativity in order to complete the problem they choose,” said coach Teresa Aurnou. “The students put in many after-school hours to practice and prepare for the competition, resulting in strong performances by all.”

Benjamin Franklin Middle School, which tied with Martinsville Middle School for first place, and Franklin County High School teams also placed first in their divisions in the Gibberish or Not category.

“From mid-October to March, my team has written a script, created and built props and costumes and rehearsed – all without assistance from adults,” said BFMS coach Doris Laprade. “My team is a wonderful and talented group of students that represented BFMS well. I am extremely proud of them and their accomplishment and to be their coach. They are very excited about attending the state competition.”

FCHS coach James Board said he can’t wait to see how his winning team performs at the state tournament.

“I am incredibly proud of the OM team this year,” Board said. “This is the first year that I have ever worked with OM, and they have been an amazing help when it comes to the process that comes with OM. They are incredibly self-motivated and unbelievably creative. All of the students are fun to work with, receptive to new ideas and are extremely coachable students.”

Placing first in the Longshot Solution category for Division I was a team from Windy Gap Elementary.

Students were tasked with coming up with a solution for saving the world from a disastrous event by sending materials from all corners of the world using vehicles that overcome obstacles and travel simultaneously into and out of a recreation area.

“I am incredibly proud of my team,” said coach Stephanie Bubyk. “They are all so creative and kind and work well together. They worked so hard for this, and it was especially impressive because they are such a young team. Most of them are only in second grade. Amy Booth and I have had so much fun coaching them and watching as the whole thing came together. There were lots of practices and their diligence paid off.”

Also placing in the Longshot Solution category was Lee M. Waid in third place for Division I, and BFMS in third place for Division II.

A second team from Windy Gap placed first in the Classics … The Effective Detective category for Division I.

The team of seven has worked together for four years and placed first at the regional level for the past three, said coach Laura Harden.

“Their coaches have been impressed to see the bonds between the seven team members grow each year, along with their creative problem-solving skills,” Harden said. “They work well together to write a skit, create props and design costumes that characters will wear. They also combine research, writing, art, humor, team-created sounds and songs into these skits.”

Teams competing in this category were also challenged to use the smallest space possible to store its solution.

Boones Mill Elementary placed sixth in the Effective Detective category for Division I, and BFMS placed second for Division II.

Other Franklin County teams placing in the regional tournament were Snow Creek Elementary (second place in the Net Working category for Division I) and Lee M. Waid (fifth place in the Net Working category for Division I).

Wickline said that since there is a cost limit to each problem, OMers also learn how to budget money.

“This means you will see creative costumes, props, dances, gymnastics, instruments and more,” she said. “Not only do they have to compete within their chosen problem, but teams must also perform well in a ‘spontaneous problem’ where they solve a new problem on the spot. They must be creative and quick-thinking.”

Wickline has been involved in OM for over 25 years – first as a coach and judge and now as the regional director.

“It is always my joy to watch our children’s creativity and inventive solutions each year,” she said.

OMER awards were presented to Board and Kissy Brouse, a volunteer from Fallon Park Elementary.

The OMER award is named for OM’s raccoon mascot and is presented to individuals or teams demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship, exemplary behavior or talent.

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