Odyssey of the Mind

The ACMPTA is currently seeking parent volunteers to organize Odyssey of the Mind! If interested, please e-mail info@acmpta.com.

Odyssey of the Mind (OoTM) is an international creative problem-solving program that teaches students how to think outside the box! Students solve open-ended problems by:

  • writing skits,

  • making costumes and props,

  • building vehicles,

  • technical elements or balsa wood structures,

  • etc. (depending on the problem choice).

– all with their team members and without the help of an adult! Sound impossible? Read on!

The foundation of the program is the creative, team-led solution of one of five long- term problems that students work on for three to five months. These challenges are designed with specific goals, guidelines, judging criteria, and monetary limitations.


Schools form teams that are coached by an adult. The teams:

    • select their long-term problem,

    • develop a solution entirely on their own,

    • and practice spontaneous problem solving.

There are 5 Main Odyssey of the Mind Problems Offered Each Year:

  1. Vehicle Problem

  2. Technical Problem

  3. Classics Problem

  4. Balsa Structure Problem

  5. Humor.

Each year the specifics of each problem changes.


Each team is allowed up to seven members. There is no minimum team size, but the recommended minimum is 5. Under the guidance of an adult coach, teams work on their solutions throughout the school year and, if they choose, present them in organized competitions in the spring.

The best teams are a mix of students with varying interests and talents, e.g., writers, artists, actors, musicians, builders, etc.

Teams are formed by grade level, and the grade level of the oldest team member determines a team’s division. For MPSA, the relevant divisions are as follows:

    • Primary Division: Students in kindergarten through grade two. This division is non-competitive.

    • Division One: Students in grades Kindergarten through five.

Time commitment

Time commitment varies by team since team members set their own goals, which drive their pace and schedule. Generally, teams meet once a week for about two hours. As competition day approaches, teams might schedule additional meetings to accomplish their goals. The coach will work with the team to set the schedule and plan meetings.

During a meeting, team members will work on a solution to the long-term problem they have chosen to solve. The team will also practice spontaneous problem solving.

Parental involvement:

Parents can sign on to coach, judge, or volunteer in some way.

Since Odyssey of the Mind is an all-volunteer organization, teams are always in need of coaches. If your child is interested in participating in OotM, they will not be able to do so without someone who is willing to volunteer and coach them! Each team needs to have 1-2 coaches, one judge, and one volunteer.

Role of the coach:

Odyssey of the Mind is a “hands-on” activity for students and “hands off ” for adults. It’s important that teams create their solutions without the help of others. However, coaches are needed for each team to provide supervision and handle logistics such as scheduling meetings, making sure paperwork is done properly, getting the team to competition, teaching them how to solve differences, and so on. Coaches also help the team understand the limitations of its long-term problem and oversee brainstorming and spontaneous practice sessions.

Usually, the coach of the team is the parent of one (or more) team members although a team could recruit another adult to coach, e.g., aunt, uncle, friend, etc. Coaches must be adults, 18 years old or older.

Role of the judge:

Judges are required to judge teams during the tournaments. The only things you need to be a judge for Odyssey of the Mind are:

  • An open mind

  • A friendly smile

  • Two free Saturdays, for training and then for the tournament

Role of volunteers:

Each team also needs to provide general volunteers to assist the day of the tournament.

Intrigued? Want to learn more?

Visit the OoTM website: https://www.odysseyofthemind.com/