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Crain, Shtulman establish new Odyssey of Mind team

The regional receptions for incoming freshmen generally give future Princetonians a chance to get to know other members of their class prior to their arrival on campus.

For Stacie Crain '01 and Andrew Shtulman '01, however, the reception led to the founding of a new student organization on campus.


Shtulman and Crain are co-founders of Odyssey of the Mind, which Shtulman describes as "a creative problem solving competition."

"I started in first grade and I've always done it," Crain said. "Andrew and I did it in high school."

Since the University did not have a team, the two decided to use their high school experiences and start one.

"We ran into each other again on campus, and got to talking about Odyssey of the Mind, and decided to start up a Princeton chapter," Shtulman said.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competition in which teams are given a problem in the fall, on which they work for the entire academic year. Age groups entering the competition range from elementary school to college.

World class

According to Crain, at the college level, teams are sent directly to the world finals. Fifty states and 16 countries send representatives to the competition. This year's finals will be held at the end of May in Orlando, Fla.


The competition is divided into four categories: structure, vehicle, mechanics and classics. For the structure category, competitors must build a structure to bear as much weight as possible. Competitors in the mechanics category build a robot.

The Princeton team is divided into two teams of seven. One is entered in the vehicle category, the other in the classics competition.

For the vehicle category, students must build a vehicle that is capable of performing certain functions and tasks, such as picking up objects or knocking structures down.

The classics category is based in the humanities. Each team creates a commercial for a nutritional product, and is assigned a fictional "mentor." These mentors can range from figures such as ancient Egyptian pharaohs to Lucille Ball. The mentor for the Princeton team is Alfred Hitchcock; the team must create their commercial in a manner that reflects the influence of Hitchcock.

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"I try to do the skits and stay away from the math parts," Crain explained.

The competition is judged largely on the creativity displayed by each team. Students are judged on the overall quality of the longterm problem, and are also judged separately based on the creativity shown in the longterm project.

There is also a section in which students are asked an impromptu question, then given a short amount of time to produce as creative a response as possible.

Starting up

There are 14 members in the organization, according to Shtulman. Twelve of the members are freshman, and two are juniors.

"When we were just starting up, we put fliers up in the residential colleges, so we were really tailoring toward underclassmen," Shtulman said.

While finding enthusiastic members was easy, Crain explained that "squeezing" funding out of the University has been a strain.

"We basically do not have any money," she said. "Four groups have given us funds but mostly we have to go off campus to afford our trip to Disney World."