Odyssey of the Mind teams shine at state

Students compete through creative problem solving

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Photo courtesy of San Ramon Valley Unified School District Twitter

From left to right, Sriya Burra, Sasha Karelina, Safoora Nabi, Arpita Gupta, Paul Iancu, Alex Siladie and Sebastian Sandru pose in their Odyssey of the Mind costumes.

Sophia DiGiovanni, Staff Writer

Two of Cal High’s Odyssey of the Mind teams placed last month at the state competition and are heading to the world finals at Iowa State May 25-28.

The teams won first and second place in their respective divisions and problem sets.

The Odyssey of the Mind program is a creativity competition where students develop skits to solve one of five long-term problems that they work on for months before performing. 

The teams do this by making their own props, costumes and scripts, supervised by volunteer parent coaches. Members get eight minutes to present their skit and three to five minutes for the spontaneous problem,  said junior Arpita Gupta. Gupta has been a part of Odyssey of the Mind since eighth grade. 

The long term problems are chosen early in the season and the teams work on them at their weekly meetings through script writing and prop building. 

“Around the fall time, you get to choose one of five or six problems from the organization, and you spend a good six months working on this problem and coming up with your own solution for this problem,” Gupta said.

Gupta’s team, which placed second, chose problem one titled “Escape vroOM” that tasks them with creating a performance set in an escape room. The team had to create one or more vehicles to “assist” them in getting out of the escape room.

The second Cal team placed first solving the problem five titled “Life is a Circus”. The team had to produce a performance about a character who “realizes they are in a circus world mid-act,” according to the Odyssey of the Mind website. The team’s unique spin on the problem presented a “two year COVID anniversary party.”

“Our team, thinking about the past few years, decided that a classic circus might be the whole COVID party,” parent coach Lori Dabaco said, “Their ‘circus’ kind of poked fun at a lot of the things that happened during COVID, like hand sanitizing and wearing masks and that sort of thing.”

Odyssey of the Mind also presents teams with spontaneous problems, which students are given on the day of the competition and teams have to complete in a limited time frame. These problems are either a hands-on puzzle or a verbal challenge.

“You’re basically given a problem [with materials] or a verbal question on the spot, and you have to come up with creative answers,” junior Sriya Burra said.

The spontaneous problem that Burra’s team was tasked with at state was to build a bridge from one end of the table to the other without touching the blocks that were placed on the table.