Green Mountain Gorillas create alien sounds with an ESPA on their way to the Odyssey of the Mind nationals. LtoR: Sean Boyer, Vihit Gupta, Myles Peterson, Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Kim. Center: The Award Winning End Struck Plosive Instrument. 

Orchard Team Advances to OM World Finals

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Thursday March 27, 2014

Orchard School students, aka the Green Mountain Gorillas, Andrew Kim, Sean Boyer, Luke Fitzgerald and Vihit Gupta, along with Myles Peterson, never would have guessed they could convert their passions for science and music into first place in their division for the technical problem and the Rantra Fusca Award, the highest creativity prize, at the 35th Annual Vermont State Odyssey of the Mind Championships, held at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School Saturday, March 22. The last time a team from South Burlington won the Rantra Fusca award was a team from FHTMS in 1991.

The technical problem required the team to write a play, based in a Haunted House, with four special effects and a surprise ending. 

The first effect was an original song, in Bb, written and performed by Sean. Sean played an End Struck Plosive Aerophone (ESPA) that was constructed by Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Kim from PVC and wood for their science fair project. Luke and Andrew transcribed the song and Bb with knowledge they gained in music theory from their Czech-born piano instructor Petr Kepka. The instrument was inspired by the Blue Man Group and the judges claimed, in the Ranatra Fusca Award, “team members knew the formula to cut each length of PVC pipe to the correct length in order to create the perfect pitch—the result was an ominous, extraterrestrial sound that propelled the theme and theatricality of the skit”. The second effect was the sound of an Audubon Cardinal, whose call sounds like an alien laser beam. Luke and Myles learned about bird calls together from Teege O’Connor at Crow’s Path, a nature immersion program in Burlington. The third effect was a balloon that cast a shadow that grew and looked like an alien head. The balloon was inflated, hands free, by the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda that was an extension of Vihit’s science fair project last year. The final effect was a change in appearance by one of the characters, played by Myles Peterson, who jumped out of a locker dressed like an alien. The surprise ending resulted when the main character pulled away his mask to reveal green skin!

The team collaborated brilliantly in the spontaneous task, when they used tape, straws and pipe cleaners to build a bridge that spanned two tables and supported 14 ping pong balls. 

Their performance earned the “Gorillas” an invitation to the World Finals at Iowa State University from May 28 to June 1, where the team will join 800 teams from across the globe to celebrate creativity. Paul Fitzgerald coached the team, which met twice weekly starting in late January. For more information on Odyssey of the Mind, please contact Paul at

SOURCE: Paul Fitzgerald, Guest Contributor