Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Alien and the Tricycle

After our 6th grade experience with Odyssey of the Mind, the organization kind of fell apart and was no longer available for us at our school. Surprisingly, we weren’t responsible for this turn of events. But we were lucky, since we were able to participate in a similar organization, Destination: Imagination, during the next two years. The challenge we picked during our 7th grade year was to build a roller coaster that transported “fruit” (represented by tennis balls) and to write a story that went along with it.

We chose to use our roller coaster to deliver fruit to war torn Chechnya, which was rebelling against Russia at the time. We also recruited ET and a small boy on a tricycle to help fly the fruit to the other side of the world. Why wouldn’t a friendly alien like ET want to get involved in a violent Russian conflict? It makes total sense.

While we were writing this totally believable story and designing our roller coaster, we had upgraded our work space from a classroom to the house of one of the guys on the team. I can’t believe I still get along with those parents. Every minute was a battle to keep us on task, and we had to be bribed with brownies and Cheetos. Each day would also end with some video games and “trampoline time,” which helped us burn off the deadly combo of sugar and ADD.

On particularly nice days, when we were working in the garage, the parents would decide that some fresh air would be good for us. However, every time they let us out, it was like a wave of terror was unleashed upon the neighborhood. The first escapee would be Jeremy, blazing down the streak on the tricycle. Then Edward, complete with ET costume, would chase after him. Next would go Peter, waving around a giant saw. Finally, everyone else would follow in this sad parody of a parade.

As you would expect, this craziness did not help with productivity. We did not have a functional roller coaster until a week before the competition, and we only got it working thanks to a stroke of genius from one of the parents. Even then, it was a crap shoot whether the roller coaster would work for the entire skit. By a miracle, ours managed to work for the competition. Since we had the only working coaster, we got first place, but other teams did an amazing job improvising their way through their skits.  We just succeeded  through technical brute force.

This sent us to the state competition in Pierre for the second year. Along the way, half of the team would nearly be run over by a semi as we ran across a highway to ride a buffalo statue. But no trip with us would be complete without a near death experience. Getting second place at state rounded out yet another year of insanity.

Click here for the final part of the Odyssey of the Mind/Destination: Imagination trilogy.


  1. Erik,
    Its so fun to read about those middle school years and see them from your point of view. And yes, miracle of miracles, we all actually survived. Thanks for the memories :)