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May 25, 2004 > Odyssey Of The Mind: Fremont Teams Square Off at World Competition

Odyssey Of The Mind: Fremont Teams Square Off at World Competition

by Praveena Raman

This year, four teams from three different schools (Hopkins, Gomes and Challenger) in Fremont will be competing in the Odyssey Of the Mind (OM) world competition during Memorial Day Weekend. Two of the teams from Fremont, one from Gomes and the other from Challenger are competing in the same age group and division and in the same problem category - a very unusual and unique occurrence.

Odyssey of the Mind, an international competitive program emphasizing creativity, was created about 25 years ago in New Jersey. Many teams from the U.S. and 25 different countries compete in the World Tournaments. The program presents problems to the students that are solved creatively, ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. Competition takes place at three different levels Regional, State and World.

The competitors are divided into five divisions: primary non-competitive division, Division I consisting of students below 12 years of age or 5th grade and under; Division II consisting of students under 15 years of age and no higher than 8th grade; Division III consists of students who don't qualify for divisions I or II and are full time K-12 students and division IV is for collegiate level students with a high school diploma.

School and community groups purchase a membership to participate in the competition and form teams with no more than seven students. Each team then chooses one of four or five competitive problems according to their division, ranging from technical to artistic or performance-oriented, to solve under the guidance of an adult coach throughout the school year. Teams can then participate in the spring competitions. While solving a chosen problem, students learn to respect ideas from other people and also to cooperate. They work within a budget, learning to manage money. They also learn that there is more than one way of solving a problem and often the process is more important than the solution itself. As they evaluate their ideas and make decisions, they increase their self-esteem and confidence.

It is interesting to note that of the four different problems (Envirover, Fantastic Art, Balancing Act, and Featured Creature) both the Challenger and the Gomes teams chose the Envirover problem as the long-term project to work on. This was the first year that teams from the Challenger school in Fremont have participated in the OM program. "The Challenger program emphasizes individuality rather than team work," points out Coach Raji Pingali. "OM was a good experience for them in teamwork." The team of seven, called the Seven Rs, consisting of Nikhil Desai, Manaswini Avvari, Shreya Indukuri, Aditya Limaye, Arun Pingali, Sanjana Rao and Harish Shanker formed in late September to work on building their prototype Envirover. The Gomes team of Yash Nagda, Dilip Nallur, Nabarun Sengupta, Sloka Gundala and Mihir Jain formed later and started working on their prototype in December. "We had a harder time getting team members," says Coach Paresh Nagda. "It was a struggle but we finally got five members." Of the five, two of the members, Yash and Nabarun had previously participated in the OM program while the other three were new to it.

"In the beginning, in October, we met twice during the weekends for 3 hours each day," says Challenger team member Shreya Indukuri. "And later we met three times a week." "We decided to go with the Envirover problem." chimes in fellow teammate Arun Pingali. "In this problem we had to build a vehicle that is powered by humans and can move from place to place and deliver trash." "The trash should be made into products and sold in stores," continues Nikhil Desai without missing a beat. The Seven Rs built their prototype using PVC pipes with three wheels and a driver's seat for the back part of the vehicle and the front part having a wheel and pedal from a kiddie bike.

"Our vehicle was made with an old scooter," explains Dilip Nallur, a Gomes team member. "Two big wheels were attached on the sides and a recycling bin was connected to the scooter with a hook. Four wheels were also attached to the bottom of the recycling bin. We then attached pedals to the vehicle but we had to pedal it with our hands."

Once the teams built their prototypes, they had to work on a product, built from collected trash that could be marketed. Next they worked on a sales pitch to sell their product. The sales pitch was presented to the judges in the form of a humorous skit.

Manasvini Avvari shyly smiles and explains the thought process behind development of their product. "We had a lot of birthday parties during November and decided to collect the birthday trash with our Envirover. While doing that we saw a lot of plastic yogurt boxes and wrapping paper in the trash. We, as a team, discussed different ideas of what we could do and decided collectively to make pretty plant holders. The yogurt boxes were decorated with wrapping paper and filled with soil. We also made a trellis with a soda-can holder and chopsticks that could be sold with the plant holder."

"We built a super rocket launcher for our product," says Yash Nagda from the Gomes team. "We used a 2 liter soda bottle and taped a plastic tube as a connector. To that plastic tube we attached a long flex tube that in turn is attached to another plastic connector. An empty water bottle is placed over this plastic connecter." "We blew air into the soda bottle," continues Nabarun Sengupta another team member, "And then we pressed the soda bottle. The air from the bottle fills the water bottle and blows it away."

The teams competed first at the Regional level and the top four winners of the different categories went on to compete at the State level. At both the levels the teams were judged and scored on their long-term project (Envirover), on a spontaneous problem on the spot and on the elaboration of their long-term project.

The teams jointly explained the competition process at both the regional and state levels. Challenger's Aditya Limaye proceeded first, "In this OM competition we are supposed to work on the problems on our own. We cannot get any help." "Actually we get points deducted if they feel we have had additional adult help." chimes in Mihir Jain from Gomes. "Oh. Yes!" agrees Harish Shanker from Challenger. "To test us they give us a new problem there itself. We go into a room only with our team members and we are given a few minutes to decide, as a team, how we are going to solve the problem." "We are also asked questions in turn and they see how well and humorously we answer," interjects Gomes team member Sloka Gundala.

"We had the Recycle and Reuse theme for our skit," explains Sanjana Rao from Challenger. "Our team name Seven Rs was from the roles that we had for the sales pitch, Recreator, Rock N' Roller, Restover, Reuser, R-Omer and Reducer."

The Gomes Team placed first in their division at the Regional level with the Challenger Team coming in second. However at the State level the Challenger team placed first with the Gomes team tieing with Brookfield School from Sacramento for the second place.

Both Fremont teams are excited and looking forward to the World competition in Maryland held during Memorial Day Weekend. They will be joined by teams from all over the world. "It is very exciting," says Yash Nagda. "I went to the world last year and saw a variety of teams from different countries. The competition is tough but it is a lot of fun."

TCV wishes all teams from Fremont the very best at the World Competition. The students have certainly learned a lot about teamwork in this process.

Information about Odyssey of the Mind can be found at or at

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