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Publish Date: 4/29/2005

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Eagle Crest Elementary School third-grader Rishab Gangopadhyay, 8, uses a bubble-blowing gun to simulate an exploding volcano while rehearsing an Odyssey of the Mind skit Tuesday at the Longmont school. Rishab's team is one of seven from the St. Vrain Valley School District that have qualified for the World Finals of the Odyssey of the Mind competition, to be held May 21-24 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Times-Call/Joshua Buck

Watch out, world
Odyssey of the Mind teams look toward finals


LONGMONT — As a hand-painted volcano gurgled and spewed bubbles and Silly String, 8-year-old Rishab Gangopadhyay “discovered” ancient cave paintings depicting the eruption of a volcano.

In the crudely drawn “cave” paintings, animals in the rainforest worked together to plug the volcano with a large rock so it would never erupt again.

Gangopadhyay called Mrs. Noodle (played by Analie Sevin), chief editor of the Jungle Times newspaper, to tell her about the amazing discovery. She printed a story about it and then went out to the jungle to see for herself. There, she met up with Tarzan and George of the Jungle. She let them test out a mind-reading device on jungle animals, which is how they found out the volcano was about to erupt again. Lacking a huge rock, the group decided to use the mind-reading helmet to plug the volcano, saving the day once again.

The seven third-graders from Eagle Crest Elementary School were acting out a story they wrote in answer to a Get the Message problem from Odyssey of the Mind.

The goal of Get the Message is to explain a natural event in primitive, present and future times. This group chose a volcano.

The international Odyssey of the Mind competition involves activities that develop skills in creativity, teamwork and spontaneous problem solving.

The group from Eagle Crest won first place in Get the Message Division I, for elementary schools, at the state competition.

“I joined Odyssey of the Mind because my friends were in it and I wanted to try something new,” said 8-year-old Julie Dauer, a member of the Get the Message team from Eagle Crest. “It’s really fun. It’s something kids can be creative at; that’s why I like it.”

The team was proud of its first-place win, with members fighting to show off their trophy.

Now they are brainstorming how to come up with the $2,500 registration fee to participate in the World Finals competition, scheduled for May 21-24 at the University of Colorado.

Seven other St. Vrain Valley School District Odyssey of the Mind teams qualified to compete in the World Finals competition.

St. Vrain had 15 teams in the state competition, and 35 teams competed across the district this year.

Eagle Crest fifth-graders earned second place in their Division I Stunt Mobiles competition.

Two teams from Niwot High School placed first in their divisions: one in Laugh-a-Thon Division III and the other in In Your Dreams Division III.

Kate Harvey, 18, a senior on Niwot’s In Your Dreams team who has competed in Odyssey for nine years, said her team competed in the World Finals last year.

“I know how to make a three-foot structure out of straws, noodles and sticky notes,” she said. “(Odyssey) teaches amazing skills you would never get otherwise. You meet the coolest, zaniest people.”

Harvey’s sister, Cori, competed on Niwot’s other first-place team in the Laugh-a-Thon division.

Cori said she is excited to attend worlds because she has never made it that far before.

“Going to worlds is huge for us,” the 14-year-old said.

As part of Laugh-a-Thon, teams have to be funny and must perform an eight-minute skit that includes a puppet, a mime and a sequence in which two people act as each other’s reflection in a mirror. They also had to make up two features of their own, so they decided to teach one of the puppets to walk and talk.

The puppets are controlled by a little girl named Molly. What she doesn’t know is that all of her puppets have minds of their own and don’t like some of the things she makes them do.

Another requirement of the skit is to have an element that moves faster than it is supposed to. In this case, the puppets have a sequence in which they dance the Macarena at high speed.

Both Niwot teams are working hard to come up with the $5,000 they need to participate in worlds and stay on campus at CU-Boulder. Teams can go for $2,500 and not stay on the CU campus, but both Niwot teams want to get the full World Finals experience.

The St. Vrain Valley School District gave each team going to the world competition $200 to put toward their expenses.

Niwot High paid the tab for both teams to go, but “we have to fundraise until we get it. ... If we don’t pay them back, they’ll have a deficit,” Cori said.

Cori said she is looking forward to another aspect of the world competition that has nothing to do with competing: meeting students from other countries and trading lapel pins with them.

“It’s really cool to learn about other cultures, see their problems and spend time with them,” Cori said. “You meet a lot of really great people.”

A Westview Middle School team placed second in the In Your Dreams Division II, Niwot Elementary’s team placed second in Get the Message Division I and Silver Creek Middle/Senior High School placed second in Get the Message Division II.

The team from Hygiene Elementary School was awarded the Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award, which “represents the essence of the Odyssey of the Mind program,” according to the program’s Web site. It is presented to individuals or teams who exhibit exceptional creativity.

Kathy Frank, one of Hygiene’s Odyssey coaches, said the creativity award is the best honor given at Odyssey of the Mind.

“It’s like the Academy Awards where they give Best Picture at the end,” Frank said. “It’s what all teams strive for.”

The Hygiene team won based on its response to a spontaneous problem, where the team members were given certain objects and had to tell a story.

They came up with a “Jumanji”-like story based around the game Candy Land, Frank said, and the judges were “wowed by their creativity and teamwork.” Because the Hygiene team didn’t expect to go to Worlds this year, they didn’t raise the money to attend the competition. They will not attend the competition but are proud they received the Ranatra Fusca award, Frank said.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.

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