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More Info & FAQs

What are some of the program benefits?

  • Develop creative thinking abilities and divergent problem-solving skills.

  • Increase student ability to apply known principles and facts to “hands-on” situations;

  • Improve communication skills.

  • Learn to plan, organize and set long-range goals.

  • Learn how to use a creative problem solving process while being encouraged to take risks.

  • Develop and utilize skills of all team members; gain sensitivity and experience with group dynamics.

  • Develop and use local resources.

  • Develop and use research skills.

  • Exercise the higher order and critical thinking skills, especially analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

  • Have fun while learning all of these very important skills


Learning to take risks allows the students to become more self-confident and independent thus making successes and defeats easier to place in perspective. Experiences with OotM problems prepare students to solve real-life problems using specific skills and behaviors.

Who Participates?

Teams of children from kindergarten through college-age participate, with a maximum number of 7 team members throughout an Odyssey season. All receive the same problems; however, their solutions vary – not simply because of age grouping but mostly due to the innovation and imagination of the creators. In the North State Shasta  Region, we currently do not have college teams participating, but we’d love to have them!

How are teams formed?

There are many ways for teams to form! Often a program is started with one very interested parent or teacher bringing the idea to the rest of their school community.


  • Many schools offer an Odyssey Orientation Night in the early fall, bringing together interested parents and students.

  • Sometimes teams have been formed before this evening.

  • Yet, at such a night, problems can be posted and students sign up for the problem they find most interesting, thus creating teams who want to solve the same problem, not necessarily classmates or friends.

  • Sometimes, teams are formed within a classroom; teachers can assist in assembling teams.

  • While most members are individual schools, home-schoolers and community-based programs also participate.


It is also possible to form a team between two or more school sites. See the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide for more information.

Who Coaches?

Each team must have a coach, who may be a parent, teacher, administrator or other interested adult (18 or older). Many teams have co-coaches. If you are a new coach, it is recommended that you have a co-coach.

What is the Coaches role and time commitment?

The Coach’s Role


Coaches are truly the backbone of the Odyssey Program! You are on the front lines, and have the privilege to see all the changes that a team goes through during the Odyssey season.

Coaches facilitate the team’s needs (meeting place, transportation, review of program rules, etc), but the students do all the work!

The coach keeps the team on task, encourages them to be creative and work as a team, but does not provide assistance to the solution of the problem. More detailed guidance will be sent as part of the membership package and program guide once the national membership dues are paid. As a coach, you will be honored and entertained while keeping your team on track.


Time Commitment


Typically, teams tend to meet a couple of hours once every 1 or 2 weeks in the fall, then increase the time or frequency as the tournament nears. Longer weekend meetings are not unusual as props and backdrops are created. 

What are the costs?

Regional and State tournaments are held in the spring of each year, and the Odyssey of the Mind year culminates with World Finals, where the best of the best match wits, imaginations, and personalities to become world champions.   The costs for this program are very minimal – the program is staffed and run by volunteers.


International memberships are $135 (a membership is typically an individual school). Each school can then have 1 team per problem per division. California State fee is $75 per membership.


Each Region has a regional tournament fee which varies by region, and is per TEAM (not per membership). In the North State Shasta Region, that cost is $50/team. Other costs include materials for solving the problem. Each problem has a maximum dollar value of what can be included at time of competition (between $125 and $150). Again, this is described in detail in the membership packet and Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide.

What is the teachers role?

Teachers are sometimes coaches, co-coaches, campus coordinators, or simply “cheerleaders” of the program. They may donate classroom time, or just the classroom, for team meetings. They also make wonderful volunteer judges at the tournaments.

What about training?

Trainings are scheduled free of charge for coaches in each region. Training for new coaches starts in September or October, with other program-specific trainings offered as the Odyssey season progresses. Some trainings are for coaches only, and a few, such as our popular Be Spontaneous! event (held in mid to late January, with a materials fee), are open to teams. Dates for trainings and events will be sent out to coaches via email, and will be posted on the this website.

What are five long term problems?

All participating teams are given the choice of the same five long term problems to solve though these problems change from year to year. Teams will pick one long term problem and work on solving that problem’s specific challenges. In addition to those problem-specific challenges, teams also add their own flair through style which enhances the solution through costumes, props scenery, drama, etc. Typical long term problems include a “vehicle” problem, a mechanical problem, a “classics” problem, a balsa wood structure problem, and a strictly theatrical problem. Additionally, there’s a Primary Problem, designed to give teams in grades K-2 a chance to experience Odyssey and share their solutions in a non-scoring presentation.


The team of seven members selects from one of the five long term problems and after working for several months on the solution, presents it at the local regional tournament. At this time, the students will compete against other teams solving the same problem in their age division. The teams are also given spontaneous problems to solve the day of the tournament. 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.


To see the synopses for this year’s Long Terms problems, go to 2020 Problem Synopses.

How are teams organized at Tournament?

At a competition, teams are organized first by the long term problems they are solving and secondly by their age group.

There are five age divisions in Odyssey:


  • Primary: Grades K-2

  • Division I: Grades K-5

  • Division II: Grades 6-8

  • Division III: Grades 9-12

  • Division IV: College


A team is placed in a specific division based on the grade level of its oldest member.

How are teams scored at regional and state tournaments?

There are three parts to the scoring:


  • Long Term Portion: The long-term portion of an OotM problem is always open-ended yet with specific design specifications and monetary limitations. It affords the students with the opportunity to brainstorm, research, plan, create and evaluate. This portion of the problem is solved during a three to four month period prior to the presentation at the regional tournament. It is worth 200 out of the total 350 points.


  • Style Portion: The style portion of an OotM problem encourages students to develop unique presentations for their long-term solutions. Style is defined as a creative addition or elaboration to the presentation of the problem’s solution, which relates to, but is not required to solve the problem. Examples include art work, costumes, props, songs, acting, dancing, scenery and elaborate school signs. It is worth 50 out of the total 350 points.


  • Spontaneous Portion: Spontaneous problems are based on the concept of fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration in thinking. Quantity of responses is important and unusual ideas are encouraged. Spontaneous problems are given to teams on the day of the tournament to challenge the teams’ ability to “think on their feet”. Some require verbal responses to a given question, some require hands-on solutions and some combine both. It is worth 100 out of the total 350 points.

Want to learn more?

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