Odyssey of the Mind travels to Worlds

Cal’s team wins first for their creative problem solving at the state competition


Photo courtesy of Lori Dabaco

From left to right, Jordan Vereen, Anika Choudhary, Andrew Ma, June Kim, and Lance Shilling perform at the state competition in Brentwood on March 25. Choudhary, a main character is fighting with her mom in the center of the stage.

Hallie Chong and Asiyah Ally

The art of performance and craftsmanship is no joke to the juniors of the Odyssey of the Mind team.
The team won the state championships and are moving on to the world championship this week for the second year in a row.
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving competition where students make eight-minute performances that align with a given prompt. Teams begin locally when students from kindergarten through high school form teams that are coached by an adult.
Members of the team are coached by Lori Dabaco and include Cal High juniors Anika Choudhary, Jason Judin, Andrew Ma, Lance Shilling, and Jordan Vereen. June Kim, who is a Dougherty Valley High junior, is also part of the team.
“Although a few people come and go along the years,” Kim said, “our team has formed a strong bond because we have worked together for so long.”
The Odyssey of the Mind team began presenting at the World Championship in Michigan on Wednesday and will continue through Saturday. Their performance consists of an influencer getting kicked out of her house by her mom for not having a job, and then moving into an influencer hub.
Their performance was constructed based on their chosen long-term problem. Of the five problems, the team chose long-term problem number five, “The Most Dramatic Problem Ever!!!” With this prompt, teams have to create a performance about a dramatic character and the different ways they overreact.
The team’s state-winning performance showcased their dramatic influencer getting destroyed by her mom in a rap battle, which was then posted online without her knowing. She then tries to solve the mystery of who leaked the video.
Judin has been part of this Odyssey of the Mind team with most of the members for nine years and said this year’s team has been working on their current problem since November.
“We write the scripts, we make costumes, we make props then we perform,” Judin said. “The process takes about three to four months.”
To start creating their performance, Shilling said there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and the competitions are more technical than performative.
“First we start off with making a storyline, we put together a storyboard,” Shilling said. “Then we start developing the characters and write a script. Then we start on props and costumes.”
The state championship this year had five competing teams, with only two advancing. Odyssey of the Mind teams begin with regional championships, then state, then world.
Last year, the state championship consisted of three competing teams, with the Cal team winning state before placing 14th out of 33 teams worldwide.
This year’s state championship instilled a strong confidence in the team.
“We were thinking we maybe got third which would’ve allowed us to keep going [in the competition] but we got first,” Vereen said. “We did not expect it but we are quite happy,”
Because of the way the performances are scored, the team was able to pull ahead of their competition. There are three different scoring categories for a total of 350 points – 200 points for the long-term category, 100 points for the spontaneous category and 50 for style.
“We heard our competition was very good, and they were, they actually beat us in the performance,” Judin said. “But because we won in spontaneous we overtook them.”
The spontaneous this year, a prompt that is given at the competition, was a verbal prompt where the components that are being scored are all based on verbal answers, contrasting with a hands-on spontaneous prompt.
This is the third time the team is moving onto the world championships. In addition to the back-to-back trips, the team also advanced in fifth grade. Shilling was looking forward to the competition this week.
“Last year was a lot of fun, so I’m excited to be able to go back and compete again,” Shilling said.
The team will have to re-perform their act that won them state and Judin feels ready.
“You feel really proud,” Judin said. “You realize that ‘this is actually a pretty good performance’ and it’s verified by your placement.”