Odyssey of the Mind
, often called
(although the official acronym is
, since "OM" has been otherwise copyrighted),
is a creative problem-solving competition involving students from
kindergarten through college
. Team members
work together at length to solve a predefined problem (the Long Term
and present their solution to the problem at a competition. They
must also generate spontaneous answers to a problem they have not
seen before; this is the spontaneous
Odyssey of the Mind is administered by Creative Competitions, Inc.
The Odyssey of the Mind program was co-founded by Dr. Theodore
Gourley and Dr. C. Samuel Micklus in 1978 at Glassboro State
College (now Rowan
That first competition, known as "Olympics
of the Mind", involved teams from 28 New Jersey schools.
program is now international, with teams from Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, the
Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Siberia, Singapore, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and West Africa
regularly competing in addition to teams from the United States..
Odyssey of the Mind teams are divided into five divisions:
Primaries for children in K-2. Primaries do not actually compete
against each other. They simply perform for the judges and
participate in the program. They can choose to go to their state
competition, but are not able to go past that to World.
Division I for students in grades 3-5 for the U.S. teams and
members less than 12 years of age for international teams.
Division II for grades 6-8 in the U.S. and members younger than 15
for international teams.
Division III for grades 9-12 in the U.S. and members who do not
fall into the other divisions for international teams.
Division IV for collegiate groups and adults.
The oldest team member determines the team's division. Division IV
is specifically for college students, and all team members must
have a high school diploma or its equivalent and be enrolled in at
least one course at a two-year or four-year college or
There is also a non-competitive primary division for young
children, who are given a simplified problem and fewer constraints
than the higher divisions. They present and are given feedback at
the first level tournament and cannot advance except for special
occasions where officials invite a team to perform again at the
State level. This is also a form of Odyssey of the Mind preparation
for future years.
In the United States, each participating state has its own Odyssey
association. Most states are further broken down into regions.
Teams compete at the regional level first and then, if they win,
progress to the state level. In the U.S., there is no national
level. State-winning teams go directly to the World Finals, which
have always been held in the U.S., usually at the end of May.
All teams who advance from their state finals, or their national
finals if they are from outside of the US, are invited to World
Finals. World Finals is the culmination of the entire year of
Odyssey of the Mind. Earning a visit to WF is a great privilege for
any Odyssey of the Mind Team.
2008-2009 World Finals were held May 27-30, 2009 at Iowa State
University in Ames, Iowa
2007-2008 World Finals were held May 31-June 3, 2008 at the
University of Maryland .
2006-2007 World Finals were held May 23-May 26, 2007, at Michigan State
University in East Lansing, Michigan.
2005-2006 World Finals were held at Iowa State
University in Ames, Iowa.
A variety of non-competitive activities are provided at World
Finals; the representative one is "Pin Trading" in which
participants trade pins from their regions and states with
participants from other states and countries. There is a creativity
festival where each state/country runs a booth containing a fun
activity related to their state. The highlights of World Finals are
the opening and closing ceremonies. These ceremonies are held
style in a stadium on campus. Teams
march in and sit with other competitors from their state. After the
closing ceremonies, several parties are held for different age
groups, and a party is held for the coaches. These parties are a
reward for all the hard work that teams have put in.
Throughout the three competition days, the team will present their
long term solution once and complete one spontaneous problem. The
rest of the time is filled with fun activities, opportunities to
observe other teams, and a chance to meet other competitors from
around the world.
Problem 1: Nature Trail'RDivisions I, II, III , & IVThis
problem requires teams to design, build and drive a human-powered
vehicle and camper that will go on a camping trip. When the vehicle
arrives at the Campground, the camper will be disconnected and the
vehicle will travel on a team-created Nature Trail. On the Nature
Trail, the vehicle will overcome an obstacle, clean up the
environment, encounter wildlife, and undergo a repair. The
performance will include a character that is in or near the camper
that explains the experience as part of its role. Sponsored by
NASA.Cost limit: $145 USD.
Problem 2: Return to The Gift of FlightDivisions I, II, &
IIITeams will make and operate a series of aircraft that will
complete a variety of flight plans. The flight plans include flying
straight, making a target spin, traveling slowly, dropping
something into a target, touching down and taking off, and a mass
launch of multiple aircraft. The aircraft in the solution will be
made of a variety of materials and will have a variety of power
sources. The testing of the aircraft will be presented in a
team-created performance that will include a character that serves
as a creative "air traffic controller."Cost limit: $145 USD.
Problem 3: Discovered TreasuresDivisions I, II, III & IVTeams
will create and present an original performance that includes the
portrayal of the discovery of two archaeological treasures. One
portrayal will be a team-created version of the discovery of an
actual historical treasure. The other portrayal will be the team's
depiction of a modern sculpture or structure that exists today but
is discovered in the future. The performance will include an
artistic representation of the two discovered treasures and
characters that are part of the discovery teams.Cost limit: $125
Problem 4: Column StructureDivisions I, II, III & IVThe problem
is to design and build balsa wood columns that will function
together to balance and support as much weight as possible. The
columns must not be connected to each other in any way. The team
will test its Column Structure by placing weights onto it. The team
will add weight until its Column Structure breaks or time ends.
Bonus score will be awarded for the number of columns used. The
team will incorporate the testing of its columns in an original
team-created performance.Cost limit: $145 USD.
Problem 5: Food CourtDivisions I, II, III & IVThe problem is to
create and present a humorous performance where a food item is
accused of being unhealthy and must defend itself among its food
peers. All characters are food items and will include "the
accused," "the accuser," a jury that is not portrayed by team
members, and additional team-created characters. The jury will
reveal its decision to the audience.Cost limit: $125 USD.
Primary: Surprise PartyGrades K-2The team is to create and present
a humorous performance that includes a Surprise Party for a
team-created character. The theme of the party is a surprise
because it is being given for something that is not normally
celebrated. Partygoers will give three gifts that help symbolize
the theme of the party. The performance will also include an
original party "noisemaker" that makes an unusual sound instead of
a loud sound.Cost limit: $125 USD.
There is a "cost" limit on the value of all materials used in the
presentation of the long-term solution. This limit is typically
US$125–150. As of the 2006-2007 rules update, some materials have a
set "assigned value". Some examples include computers and most
audio-visual equipment (projectors
music players, etc.). The suggested cost to write these items down
as is anywhere between $5-$10. Still other materials are simply
"exempt" from cost. This includes batteries
and power cords
, footwear, tables and chairs. All of
these materials, even the exempt, must be listed on the "cost
form". The judges check this list to make sure that the team is
within the cost limit and following the appropriate assigned values
is a component of long-term where teams are
judged on specific elements of their skit. There are five elements
scored in style. Often, two of these elements are specified in the
problem, the other two are then "free choice of team" elements, and
the fifth is a score of how well the other elements contribute to
the performance. The pre-specified elements are related to the
problem in some way; they are typically something to do with the
appearance of a vehicle, costume, or prop. The free choice items
may be anything the team wishes as long as they are not already
scored as part of the long-term solution. Each element is scored
from 1-10, accounting for 50 points of the overall score.
The Spontaneous problems are the part of the competition that
encourage quick, off-the-top-of-your-head thinking. While up all
team members may enter the spontaneous room, only five team members
can actually participate in spontaneous. Spontaneous problems fall
into three categories:
- Verbal problems involve responses to a
question, statement, or picture; team members' responses are scored
on wittiness and creativity (With common responses receiving one
point and creative or humorous responses receiving greater amounts,
depending on the problem.). Usually, team members have one or two
minutes to think of responses and then two or three minutes to give
the responses. The order of responses is often random or
sequential. Recent problems have also involved a limit to the total
number of responses. (Each team member is given a set of colored
cards and must turn in a card when they give a response. When they
are out of cards, they are out of chances to respond.)
- Verbal hands-on problems are similar to verbal
problems, but they usually involve manipulating a physical object
in some way. This may include using an object as a prop, or taking
clay or aluminum
foil and making characters, which then participate in a story
made up by the team members. Scoring is based on team work and
creativity of responses.
- Hands-on problems rely almost entirely on the
manipulation of physical objects; these problems usually take
longer than verbal problems, and team members may sometimes only be
able to communicate non-verbally. Scoring is based on team work,
creativity, and problem-specific goals.
Although an Odyssey team can consist of up to seven members, only
five can participate in the Spontaneous problem. Team members that
do not participate must either leave the competition room or stay
in the room without communicating with the rest of the team in any
way. The team members usually decide in advance who will
participate in the different types of Spontaneous problems; after
the judge announces which of the three types a team will be given,
the other teammates will leave or stay as the case may be.
Each team is given a score out of 350 points: 200 from Long-term,
100 from Spontaneous, and 50 from Style. Style is scored from 1-10
in each of the five categories, and the Long-term and Spontaneous
problems are scored according to each problem's individual rules.
The scores awarded are then scaled within each problem and division
based upon the highest score achieved by any team in each of the
three scoring categories. So, for instance, the team scoring
highest in Long-term in a particular problem and division receives
200 points, and the scores for the other teams in that problem and
division are scaled proportionately. A team ranking first in its
problem and division in all three elements of the competition would
thus receive a "perfect" score of 350 points, regardless of the
actual raw scores assigned by the judges.
Awards for Creativity
OMER’s Award is named for the Odyssey of the Mind raccoon mascot,
OMER, in recognition ofindividuals or teams who demonstrate
outstanding sportsmanship, exemplary behavior, orexceptional
talent. Recipients of this award may be coaches, team members,
parents, officials oranyone else that tournament officials or
directors feel exhibit these traits. This award is notintended to
reward creativity. Generally, a handful of these awards are given
out at each competition.
Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award
The Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award represents the essence of the
Odyssey of the Mind. It ispresented to teams or individuals who
exhibit exceptional creativity, either through some aspectof their
problem solution, or an extraordinary idea beyond the problem
solution. A successfulproblem solution is not a criterion for
winning the award; rather, the award is a way toacknowledge and
encourage creative thinking and risk-taking. Teams that earn this
award at the state/province/country level are eligible to advance
to world finals. The name comes from a type of insect Renatra fusca
which can walk on
water and served as the inspiration for a particularly creative,
but unsuccessful, solution to a problem in the early days of the
- When founded, the program was known as "Olympics of the Mind."
early 1980s, the International Olympic
Committee enforced violations of its trademarked "Olympic"
name, and forced the program to change its name. The new
name selected was "Odyssey of the Mind" to fit the "OM" acronym in
use at the time.
- Though the program is often called "OM," this use has been
discouraged as the result of a trademark-related lawsuit with
OM Association, Inc.
Associations for Canadian provinces
Associations for U.S. states
Resources for Spontaneous Problems