Creative Competition at Odyssey of the Mind

For those of you who don’t know, Odyssey of the Mind is a program where teams of five to seven kids have to solve problems. There are different competitive divisions: Division I is grades 3–5, Division II is grades 6–8, Division III is grades 9–12, and Division IV is for college. Last, there’s the Primary Division for grades K–2. You only compete with your division. 

In Odyssey of the Mind you have to solve a problem—but not just any problem, it’s a creative problem. Each year there are five problems and one primary problem. You get to choose which problem you take. You perform a skit that shows all the guidelines. 

Problem #1 is always a vehicle problem where teams build a vehicle that powers itself. This year teams had to design, build and run vehicles from a multi-level parking garage to a secret meeting place without being stopped. Vehicles could travel different routes to reach the destination. The performance needed to include the reason for the meeting, someone who wants to prevent the meeting, a scene taking place inside the vehicle as it travels, and a soundtrack to accompany the vehicles’ travel.

Problem #2 is a technical problem where teams have to build something. This year’s problem asked teams to create a humorous story about a family that brings home an “Odd-a-Bot.” Instead of being programmed to perform tasks, this Odd-a-Bot robot learns from watching others. The Odd-a-Bot will move and learn human actions from watching characters perform activities like household chores, creating art and dancing.  

Problem #3 is the classic problem, which means it involves art and literature. The future and the past collide in this problem about important works of art—both existing and yet-to-be-created. Teams had to create and present an original performance about time travelers looking to discover the inspiration for great works of art. They travel through time—twice into the past and once into our future. The performance will include how the three works of art positively impact the world, a visual and audible effect that indicates when time travel is occurring, two re-creations of the classic works of art selected from a list, and a team-created work of art. 

Problem #4 is a structure problem. Teams build a structure that has to hold weights. Teams design, build and test a structure made of balsa wood and glue that will balance and support as much weight as possible. Teams present a performance with a theme about using what’s available and that incorporates weight-placement and assembling original team creations.

Problem #5 is a performance problem with a lot of acting. This year’s problem is Superhero Cliff Hanger—creativity is being taken away from the world, and it is up to Odyssey teams to rescue it! 

I have done Odyssey of the Mind for two years and I love it. I love how I get to act during the problem performance and work with my team. I like to build the props for my skit. 

Odyssey of the Mind is amazing. Not only do you have to make a skit, but you have a spontaneous challenge where you have to come up with creative answers to a question. Teams go in a room and do either a verbal or hands-on problem. You are not allowed to have your coach in the room with you, it’s just you and the judges. If you score first or second place at the regionals you get to go to state finals, then maybe on to the world finals!

I love Odyssey of the Mind because I love to build and go to the competitions. If you want to join Odyssey of the Mind you should. Visit for more information.

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