What is Odyssey of the Mind?

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition that is open to children from kindergarten through to adults. There are five divisions in this program and the age of the oldest member of a team will determine the division that a team will fit. Odyssey of the Mind started in 1978 as Olympic of the Mind and Dr. C. Samuel Micklus, and Dr. Theodore Gourley are credited as the founders. While this program originated in New Jersey in the United States, today it has participants from all over the world. 24 countries are listed among the participants.

Odyssey of the Mind is broadly defined into two categories: long-term problem solving and spontaneous problem solving. Long-term problem solving refers to the problem that is given to all the team well ahead of time which they have to find a way to solve creatively. There is a budget limitation which stipulates how much a team can spend on a given problem and this is in the $125 to $150 range. The spontaneous problem solving involves coming up with an impromptu solution during the competition. The two categories are intended to develop two different skill sets in the participating students. The long-term problem solving involves the team working together and learning to think outside the box. It gives students the luxury of time but challenges them with the limit on the budget. The spontaneous test is emphasizing the study skill of thinking on one's feet and it again requires this to happen in the context of team.

Odyssey of the Mind starts with the primary division which is non-competitive and is for kids from kindergarten through second grade. Division 1 is for kids from grade 3 to 5, division II is for kids in grade 6 to 8, division III is for kids in grade 9 to 12 and division IV is for adults and college students. There is a corresponding international segmentation based on age. The competitions progress from the regional level to the state level to the national level and then the world level. In the case of the US there is no national level and the World Finals is usually held within the US. Making it to the World Finals is considered a major achievement in the Odyssey of the Mind.

Exercises such as Odyssey of the Mind are a great way for students to think without self-imposed restrictions. Very often teachers struggle with students who decide whether they should or should not have questions and it is hard to encourage them to keep an open mind and attitude. Odyssey of the Mind, or OM as it is known, encourages the idea that there is no easy right or wrong answer and it allows children a space to express themselves to try out ideas. Education and learning happens when children are away from worksheets and lesson plans and this is an instance of such a context.

While there is much debate about the effect of competition on the psyche of young children, Odyssey of the Mind emphasizes the fun and team effort enough to counter impulses of excessive competition and aggression. This makes it one of those safe avenues for children to explore creative new ideas and for interacting with other stimulating peers at multiple levels. Odyssey of the Mind offers a certain exposure to the world around that is a unique opportunity for most typical school-aged kids.

Odyssey of the Mind Related Websites

  1. Arizona Odyssey of the Mind - We are the 1997-98 AZ Chartered Association of the OM Organization. Come see what is happening this year with AZ OM!
  2. Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind
  3. Hong Kong Odyssey of the Mind Programme
  4. Iowa Odyssey of the Mind (OM)
  5. Kentucky Odyssey of the Mind - Includes regional information, OotM history and creative thinking strategies.
  6. Massachusetts Odyssey of the Mind
  7. New Hampshire Odyssey of the Mind
  9. Odyssey Alumni - Almuni organization for former participants.
  10. Odyssey World - Community for Coaches, Participants, Officials. Includes resource section for many OotM aspects.
  11. Official Odyssey of the Mind Website - Includes World Finals information, links to local contacts, clarifications and practice spontaneous problems.
  12. Texas Odyssey of the Mind - Texas Odyssey of the Mind's official website. Come by for the latest Texas Odyssey news, scores, competition info and more.
  14. Virginia Odyssey of the Mind - Includes regional information, spontaneous problem of the week and a newsletter.