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Westfield in World 'Odyssey'

Odyssey of the Mind competition to be held in Boulder, Colo.

A team based at Westfield High School will be among competitors at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, to be held in Boulder, Colo., May 21-25.

ODYSSEY OF the Mind is an international problem-solving competition for students from kindergarten through college. The team includes Mahati Gollamundi, 16, a student at Westfield; Arjun Athreya, 14, of Centreville High School; and Frank Driscoll, 16, Chris Glomb, 15, and Kinsey Holland, 15, all of Oakton High School. They are coached by Eugenia Sirgo-Driscoll, who has coached son Frank's team since he was in third grade.

"My son's teacher approached me about it, and, after we got some information, we were hooked," she says. "I think [Odyssey] helps kids in the whole rest of their lives. It gives them confidence, self-esteem and a place where they can shine" for students who might not participate in sports, she says.

This marks the Westfield team's second appearance at Worlds. This year, like last, they earned their spot by placing second at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind Association Finals, held April 16 in Vienna.

Coach Sirgo-Driscoll says the team's success is due to their team dynamics and individual skills. "[Chris Glomb] is great with electronics, my son is a really good builder ... Kinsey is the costume girl, and Mahati is scripts. They're all good actors. Arjun is a jack-of-all-trades and an excellent actor." All team members have worked together for at least two years; some have been together since third grade.

Mahati Gollamundi has been with this team since seventh grade. Like all team members, she enjoyed going to the World Finals last year, where she met people from throughout the world, including Yugoslavia and Estonia, and watched them perform.

THIS YEAR, "The newness [at Worlds] isn't there, so we can just enjoy every single thing," she says.

Frank Driscoll says he enjoys the teamwork aspect of Odyssey of the Mind, as well as his specialty within the team ā€” building and designing the sets, which he has done throughout his Odyssey experience. "I started out with simple materials, like PVC pipes. As we progressed through the levels, it got a bit more intense," he says.

In March 2004, the team won the Ranatra Fusca Award for exceptional creativity at the regional competition, held in Reston for "Feature Creature." In that problem, teams had to create an animal made of the parts of other animals, and a matching mythology. The team created an animal with a pig head, penguin body, wings and duck feet.

This year, the team competed in the "In Your Dreams" long-term problem, Division III. The problem requires teams to create a performance depicting a dream including cheerful, nonsense and nightmarish scenes; the nightmare must include a monster, which the team made in the shape of an egg.

To make the egg, which needed to be able to move and spin in a circle, Chris Glomb rewired the base of a child-sized car so the wheels would turn individually, says his mother, Susan Glomb. Chris rides inside and drives the vehicle during performances.

Arjun Athreya says the sets, which show a Candyland modeled after the board game and New York complete with a skyline, turned out especially well. "I absolutely love our scenery," he says.

One of Kinsey Holland's favorite parts on the problem is a sequence in the nonsensical scene. In it, mobsters are selling cosmetics, and then a police officer arrests them for bootlegging illegal makeup, she says.

Of more than 700 teams at the World Finals, only 14 or so will be named world champions. "Our hopes are that we come in a decent place. We know there are a lot of tough teams out there, but we want to come before the TJ team," Kinsey Holland says.

ATTENDING THE World Finals will cost about $1,000 per participant for airfare, room and board and incidentals, Sirgo-Driscoll estimates. To raise the money, they are holding bake sales and selling toy teeth embedded with blinking lights. The group has also asked for money from Fairfax County and the schools, and is trying to find a corporate sponsor, Sirgo-Driscoll says.

For more information on Odyssey of the Mind, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com. For information about specific fund-raising activities for the Westfield team, call Eugenia Sirgo-Driscoll at 703-620-5360.