Several Indian-American kids in final teams for Odyssey of the Mind competition

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Two elementary school teams from North Edison, including several Indian-Americans, have reached the world finals of the Odyssey of the Mind (OM), competition. OM is a creative problem-solving program involving students from kindergarten through college which will be held at Michigan State University starting May 22.

14 students from the MLK Elementary School in Edison, New Jersey, who made it to the finals of the Odyssey of the Mind (OM) problem-solving competition to be held starting May 22 in Michigan. Seen in photo are some members of the team, from left, from left: Carter Williams, Annika Jeena, Aksh Doshi, Jay Chavan, Riya Lakhihal, Pranavi Ganti, coach Ruth Vogel and Chaitanya Palasamudram. (Photo: courtesy organizers)

The Edison Board of Education passed a unanimous resolution on Monday, April 15, congratulating the 14 students, 7 in each team, from the Martin Luther King Elementary School, wishing them well at the OM world finals to be held over four days from May 22. Dozens of proud parents and friends of the successful students cheered when the Board passed the congratulatory resolution at the Edison High School.

The Grades 3-5 students in the two winning teams are: Annika Jeena, Aksh Doshi, Carter Williams, Chaitanya Palasamudram, Jay Chavan, Pranavi Ganti, Riya Lakhihal, Charlotte Dressel, Nitya Puli, Caleb Foo, Kaveesh Singh, Avika Shukla, Riti Sarje and Pranav Srinivasan, all residents of Edison township.

Ruth Vogel and Kim Jackson, both MLK Elementary school teachers who also volunteer as OM coaches, will accompany the teams to Michigan next month.

“Our MLK elementary school kids worked really hard and came together really well to solve a predefined long-term problem and elegantly presented their solutions Jackson is quoted saying in a press release, referring to the New Jersey state finals held at Ewing High School on April 6.

The Odyssey of the Mind, abbreviated OM, is a two-part competition: a predefined long-term problem and a spontaneous portion by generating solutions to a problem the kids have not seen before. While the long-term problem solution often takes many months to complete and involves various elements of theatrical performance, construction and design, the spontaneous portion occurs the day of the competition.

Founded in 1978 in Glassboro State College, NJ, the creating and problem-solving competition attracts about 5,000 school and college students from over two dozen countries at the world finals.

Aksh Doshi, Carter William, Chai Palasamudram, Jay Chavan, Pranavi Ganti and Riya Lakhihal spent most of the school year working on an eight-minute routine on the ‘Opposites Distract’ problem, the press release said. They wrote a humorous script and  built props and colorful costumes using recycled materials developed without adult assistance.

“There are two different groups each with their own leader. There is a sneaky character who tries to break up the group. Throughout the skit, the sneaky character succeeds twice and fails the last attempt before others realize that they were being manipulated,” explained Vogel.

OM teaches the value of team work, communication and highlights that the “most commonly used way is not necessarily the most creative way to solve problems,” added Jackson, whose team worked on another long-term problem, Structure Toss.

During their presentation on Structure Toss, the team made up of Charlotte Dressel, Caleb Foo, Nitya Puli, Kaveesh Singh, Avika Shukla, Riti Sarje and Pranav Srinivasan tossed their 15-gram, 8-inch structure and tested for strength. “The structure held up well to carry 730 lbs before it crushed under the weight,” Jackson said, referring to the device made of light balsa wood and held up by only glue.

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