Odyssey of the Mind consists of two competitions: Long-Term and Spontaneous problem solving. The "problems" are solved by teams of 5 to 7 people, as follows:

Long-Term problems were issued at the beginning of the year and each team had to sign up for one when they registered for a membership. There was always a problem which involved "Classics" -- great literature or art, one which involved the building of a motor-powered vehicle, one which included a balsa-wood structure, and then one or two that simply tested creativity without incorporating any of the above elements. There was also a specific Long-Term problem for the Primary division (Kindergarten through 2nd grade) The solutions to the problems are presented in skit form, with a time limit of 8 minutes (including setup of props.) Scoring for the skits is on a scale of 0-200 and based on factors such as creativity, teamwork, presentation of the skit, and the overall solution. In addition, there is a category of a possible 50 "Style Points" based on five of the team's creations (i.e. a song or a costume.) When the scoring for every team is complete, the first-place team's score is weighted to a solid 250 and each lower-place team is proportional to that.

Spontaneous problems, which were my favorite, were different from Long-Term in that they locked you in a room with the judges, gave you a problem and, after one minute of "thinking time", they drilled you for answers. The point-rewards were one point for a "common" answer and three points for a "creative" answer. For example, a normal "practice problem" for our team was "Name things that are red." a common answer is "a fire hydrant." A creative answer would be "A newspaper" (interpreting "red" as "read".) When the points are totaled for every team, the highest point total is weighted to 100, similarly to the Long-Term points.

There are Hands-On Spontaneous Problems which usually necessitated the building of a structure using only the materials provided by the judges. Hands-On Spontaneous Problems are usually judged by category similarly to the Long-Term scoring system, and it is weighted to 100 just like the verbal spontaneous problems. (Each team only does one spontaneous problem -- it's just that there is more than one kind.)

Penalties of up to 50 points can be given for "no-no's" such as Outside Assistance (work done by anyone other than team members), dishonesty, failure to solve the problem or Bad Attitude towards others.

OM teams are divided into five divisions, by the grade level of the eldest team member:

  • Primary division is K-2nd grade, as mentioned above.
  • Division I is grades 3-5.
  • Division II is grades 6-8.
  • Division III is grades 9-11
  • Division IV is grade 12, and college level (not very common.)
There are three levels of OM competition: Regional, State, and World Finals. At a Regional Finals competition there might be anywhere from 2 to 200 teams competing. The first- and second-place teams advance to State Finals unless there are more than 15 teams in a problem & division, in which case third place also advances, and the first- and second-place teams at States advance to World Finals. There is also a Renatra Fusca award given for extreme creativity, and if you are awarded one at the State Level you will advance to World Finals even if you have a calculated score of 14. OMer Awards are given to Good Sports, but they do no warrant advancement to a higher level.


I was on various OM teams from second grade through seventh grade, and my school had a reputation for being very, very good. Case in point: I have friends whose team went to Worlds three times and placed in top 10 twice. The best teams are the ones with members of both sexes, even if it's six guys and a girl. That's okay, we did that once and placed at States.

Coaching an OM team, especially if it is a team with which a younger sibling is involved, is very, very, very, very, VERY stressful and time-consuming, however, it is fun and in the long run I'd rather be coaching than competing. It endlessly taps your creativity, and tests your endurance as well as your baby-sitting skills. By the time finals roll around, the kids may hate you more than they hate each other... but all is forgotten as they run forward to get their ribbons.

All of what I know is from when I competed/coached Odyssey of the Mind -- right after the changes my friends and I referred to ourselves as "old-skool OM". I don't know how obsolete it is. If you have any changes, /msg me so I know to change it before I make an ass of myself. Thanks.