By Michael Puffer, Republican American

WATERBURY — A rhombus is a geometric shape with four sides of equal length and four corners.

Picking one out of a crowd of four shapes is an easy enough task for someone armed with a computer and the Internet. It’s quite different for a team of fifth-graders competing in front of a crowd of hundreds.

It was one of several tough challenges tackled by fifth­graders from Generali Elemen­tary School, Maloney Magnet School and Rotella Magnet School during Tuesday’s Olympics of the Mind, an annu­al academic competition among city schools.

Waterbury’s 20 elementary schools each sent six students to represent its third grade, and another six representing the fifth grade. In all, 240 children spent the day at the Holiday Inn. They were joined by hun­dreds of parents. The rhombus question left adults in the audience whisper­ing to one another as they groped for long-forgotten geometry definitions. WATR radio host Bob Sagendorf — asking the questions — an­nounced that his fellow radio personality Tom Chute didn’t know the answer.

“I’m going back to school,” Board of Education member Charles Stango whispered to fellow board member Ann M. Sweeney in the audience.

Two of the three teams guessed correctly. Maloney Magnet School got the most correct answers, winning large trophies for team mem­bers and a larger trophy for the school.

Only three teams from each grade were able to compete before the whole assembly. These were selected through written tests taken at the out­set of the four-hour competi­tion.

Schools were broken into north, east and west divisions. The three top-scoring teams in each division earned gold, silver and bronze medallions.

The three top scorers over­all got the chance to compete before the whole assembly.

The competition was launched six years ago as a way to energize students.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” excited Gener­ali School third-grader Da­iana Lilo exclaimed as her team was announced as first­place winner in the east divi­sion.

Generali has made great strides in meeting federal testing goals over the past year. Its fifth-graders picked up silver medals in the divi­sional competition. Maloney had the best day, taking first-place trophies for the all-schools competition in both third and fifth grade.

Maloney’s third- and fifth­graders also earned gold medals in the divisional com­petitions.

Maloney third-grader Emi­ty McEvoy tied with Regan School third-grader Trinity Flores for the highest individ­ual scores in their grade.

Even those students who didn’t win awards received T­shirts with their school colors, labeled “Olympics of the Mind.”

“They love it,” Generali teacher Michael Theriault said.

“They look forward to com­ing to the hotel. Eating some­where that’s not their school. The whole experience.”