Odyssey of the Mind

Frequently Asked Questions about Odyssey of the Mind

What is Odyssey of the Mind??  Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.  Click here for a description of this year’s problems.

What are the benefits of Odyssey of the Mind ?

  • Students develop team-building skills by working in groups of as many as seven students per team.
  • Students learn to examine problems and to identify the real challenge without limiting the possible solutions and their potential success.
  • The creative-thinking process is nurtured and developed as a problem-solving tool.
  • Students of all types will find something that will appeal to them.
  • The fun of participation leads to an elevated interest in regular classroom curricula.
  • Students are exposed to long-term team-based problems which more closely resembles “real life” projects and helps provide students with a well-rounded education.

Who Participates?

Millions of students from kindergarten through college have participated in the Odyssey of the Mind. Since the Odyssey of the Mind eliminates the fear of criticism, even shy students are afforded the opportunity to open up and express themselves. Students learn to work in teams. Each year, five new competitive problems are presented for the teams to solve. These long-term problems are solved over weeks and months. Some of the problems are more technical in nature, while others are artistic or performance based. Each long-term problem rewards “Style” in the solution. This helps teach students that they should not simply try to solve problems but take the next step of enhancing their solutions. The teams are invited to participate in competition and present their solution with other teams. At the competition, the teams are given an on-the-spot “spontaneous” problem to solve. The combination of long-term problem-solving, Style, and spontaneous problem-solving produces a confident, able student.

How does Odyssey work in Texas? 

Each year, the Odyssey of the Mind parent organization, CCI develops six different “long term problems.” Teams from all over the world select one of the long term problems and begin to develop their own, unique solution that is presented to judges at various tournaments. In Texas, the first official tournament is at the Region level.  Teams come together one Saturday in late February or early March, at a local school, to participate in their Region Tournament. At the tournament, the judges select teams from each problem and each age division that will advance to the Texas State Tournament, which has been held in Houston for the past few years. The judges at State select the top Texas teams, once again from each problem and age division, to advance to World Finals. CCI runs the World Finals tournament where 750‐800 teams from around the US and from 20 plus countries meet to show their creative solutions to this year’s set of problems. World Finals is held for five days in late May and early June. The location rotates between colleges in the US. Recent locations include Iowa State, Michigan State, and the University of Maryland.


How does Odyssey work at Mark Twain?

Teams are formed by grade level.  A team could combine grade levels but is recommended that only adjacent grade levels are combined, for example, 4th & 5th or 3rd & 4th, K & 1st, but not 2nd & 4th).  Teams will meet at the convenience of coaches and students; a recommendation is to meet for 2 hours per week.  As competition date approaches, the team might need to meet more often.  Parents act as coaches, facilitating the group but not directing the group towards a solution.  A main precept of OM is that the solution to the problem is designed, created and implemented entirely by the children on the team; the coaches facilitate but do not create or suggest a solution.  Only the kids can decide how to solve the problem.  The solution to the problem is presented in a tournament.  Teams have 8 minutes to present their solution.

Teams formed by Kinder through 2nd graders only present their solution at the Regional Tournament and do not compete at the state level. These teams only have one option for their long-term problem (called Primary Problem).

What is the typical* commitment for an Odyssey Participant and his/her parents? 

  • Teams begin meeting 1-2 times per week in October.  Meeting typically last 1.5-2 hours.  Meeting dates, times, and locations are determined by the coach.
  • Teams can only consist of 7 members.  Once a group of 7 members begins working on the solution, none of the members can be replaced.  Therefore, joining an Odyssey team is a commitment to remaining with the team until the Regional Tournament and beyond if required.
  • Outside of team meetings, team members may be required to create props, gather materials, write scripts, come up with additional ideas, etc.
  • Some teams go on field trips together such as to see an art installation or a children’s theater production.
  • Team parents are required to get team members to and from meetings, assist in gathering needed materials, contribute some monetary amount determined by the coach to fund materials and team t-shirts (approx $50).  Some parents may be asked to coordinate field trips, manage the team money, contribute snacks, assist the coach with specific tasks, or donate items such as tape, paper, glue, scissors, fabric, etc.
  • Some teams opt for additional practices as the regional tournament approaches.  The regional tournament usually takes place in March.
  • Grade 3-5 teams may progress beyond the Regional Tournament to the State Tournament, which typically takes place in April.  Teams that progress will continue practicing until the State tournament.  Teams who progress to the State level may then advance to the World competition.  The World Competition takes place at a University somewhere in the US.  Attending the World Finals will require the team to fund the cost of travel, board and meals through either parent donations, fund raising efforts or some combination of both.

What is the typical* commitment of a Coach? 

  • Coaches determine the location, time and schedule for all meetings and depending upon the level of the team may create or assist the team in creating each meeting agenda.
  • Coaches attend and facilitate every meeting (once or twice a week) and the regional tournament.  If the team should progress to State and World, the coach will continue weekly meetings and attend State and World tournaments s well.
  • Coaches spend time prior to each meeting ensuring the team has the materials they will need, prepping any games or spontaneous problems the team will work on, strategizing how to best utilize the team talents, etc.
  • During the meeting the coach serves as a facilitator, mediator, asks questions, suggests additional activities, schedules breaks, snacks and games, etc.
  • Coaches communicate regularly with team parents.
  • Coaches gather all needed info for the tournament, ensure all forms are filled out and ready, gather parent signatures, collect money and sizes for t-shirts, and perform other administrative tasks or recruit a team parent to assist.
  • *Every team, every coach, and problem is different, so there is no such thing as typical

 If I want my child to participate in Odyssey of the Mind, what can I do?  The best way to ensure your child is on a team is to become a coach.  If you are not able to coach, your next best option is to recruit a coach for your child’s team.  Learn more about Coaching an Odyssey Team.

Fill out this form and return it to the Odyssey of the Mind box in the Parent Workroom: Interest Form for parents and children

Who can I contact to learn more?  Zeph Moss at zmoss@att.net

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