3 Components of Odyssey of the Mind


At an Odyssey of the Mind competition, teams are judged in three distinct areas:  The Long-Term Problem, The Spontaneous Problem, and Style.

The Long Term Problem:

Every year, the Odyssey of the Mind organization publishes five competitive long-term problems, and one non-competitive Primary problem.  Some problems are theatrical, while others are more technical. Typically, Problems 3 and 5 are more dramatic and focus on the performance aspect. Problems 1 and 2 are more technical in nature and involve creating vehicles or other props that must accomplish tasks.   Problem 4 incorporates engineering a structure made to bear weight.  While all problems have different criteria, all problems have an 8 minute performance requirement. All problems are open-ended enough that an unlimited number of interpretations are possible.  The long-term solutions are prepared by the team in advance of the tournament. Teams usually spend three to five months developing these solutions.

 The Primary problem is an exhibition performance at all regional competitions. The criteria for Primary change every year and can focus on technical elements one year and be performance based the next.

To see the synopsis of problems for this year click here


Spontaneous Problem:

At each competition the teams are also given spontaneous problems to solve the day of the state and world tournaments. These problems also foster creativity and teamwork. Their solution involves a form of brainstorming. Though teams may practice for this segment, they do not know the problem ahead of time.  Teams competing against each other are required to solve the same Spontaneous problem.  Team members are not allowed to discuss the problem they are given until after World Finals for the given year.

Example of the spontaneous problem: Your problem is to name as many things as you can that fly, or use the word fly in as many unusual ways as you can.  


Odyssey of the Mind long-term problem solutions require creative problem solving.  Exactly what is Style?  Think of a banana split.  The long-term is the ice cream on the banana.  Style is the way the toppings are placed on the ice cream.  All teams that solve the problem have met the requirements of the problem – the banana with the ice cream,  but all teams have placed their toppings on in a unique way.  They have created special aspects of their solutions that were not required.  That is Style. Anything that is not scored in the long term portion of the problem can be scored for Style.

EXAMPLE:  The team is to create and present an original performance that includes a scene from the Iliad and a scene relating to a real occurrence during the twentieth century that includes a god or goddess.  The team creates that required skit, but elaborates on it by presenting the skit totally in rhyme.  That is Style.