top of page


A simple, step-by-step guide for starting an Odyssey of the Mind membership and/or team in Illinois.



The *best* way to learn how to do Odyssey of the Mind is to just do it!  First year teams learn so much along their journey and return their second year stronger, smarter, wiser, and ready to take on the world!  However, we want to make the process of joining as *easy* as possible.  Please read the step-by-step instructions below so that you can bring the Odyssey of the Mind program to your school, community group, and/or city today!



STEP 1: Create Your Team.


OM consists of teams of up to 7 students. Some schools offer the program and form several teams of students this way. Some parents will get together and start their own team(s) for their children if the local school doesn't currently offer the program. Some homeschooling parents coordinate with each other to create a team (or multiple teams) for their children. 

Which of the following best describes you:


Awesome! Shoot us an email @, and we'll help you get OM up and running!


No worries! The best way to know for sure is to call and ask the school. If they do not currently offer an OM program but would like to, let us know ( and we'll help you make it happen!  If they are unable to provide the program, that's okay, too! Go to the next section...



Your child/children can still participate in the program!  You can join OM and form a team (or multiple teams) on your own, whether as a homeschool, a community group, or a team representing an existing community organization (e.g., the local Rotary Club or city library).


STEP 2: Become a Member of OM!


Great news for the cost-conscious: Odyssey of the Mind is deliberately kept affordable so that as many young people across the U.S. and around the world can participate as possible!  A single membership covers *multiple* teams -- each membership is able to enter a team of up to 7 students in *each* of the five problems in *each* age division covered by the membership.  Some groups will have just one team competing, but most OM groups have multiple teams -- either way, one OM membership covers everyone!  An added bonus: a membership can have as many Primary Problem (K-2) teams as it wants!  Thus, the per pupil cost breakdown for OM is remarkably low -- and that's on purpose: OM strives to be an affordable solution for *every* school and community. Copycat programs charge almost 4x's the price for *each* team -- that's simply not the OM way! 


Each problem students solve also has a cost limit for what they can spend creating their solution, so teams are forced to be creative, to re-use and re-purpose items as they create their solutions.  This helps keep the competition affordable *and* fair!

The annual membership gives teams access to:

1. All the program materials for that year including the Long-Term Problems

2. Access to practice resources for Spontaneous

3. A quarterly newsletter from the Odyssey of the Mind program

4. Access to content and classroom materials from OM sponsors and partners

5. The ability to compete in the local state tournaments

To become a member, visit


STEP 3: Solve Your Problem!


Each team will choose ONE of FIVE possible Long-Term Problems to solve.  These problems are included in your membership packet and can be accessed online once you are a registered member of OM.  The specific requirements of each problem change year to year, but the categories stay the same: 1) Vehicular, 2) Technical, 3) Classical, 4) Structural, 5) Theatrical. You can see a preview of the current year's problems by reading the synopses posted at OM headquarters!  NOTE: the full Long-Term Problems are released every August/September to coincide with the traditional academic year.

In addition to the Long-Term Problem, teams will also practice what are called Spontaneous Problems.  Spontaneous Problems are activities that are provided to teams *in-the-moment* that require them to use quick-thinking skills to solve a problem. Maybe they will have to build a bridge from toothpicks and toothpaste? Maybe they will have to write a mini-musical? Maybe they will have to communicate using only sounds? With Spontaneous, you never know what you're going to get!


STEP 4: Compete!


Students from all over Illinois (and around the world) will work for weeks to months solving their respective Long-Term Problem. Then, in early spring each year, Illinois (and other states and nations around the world) hold their competitions where the teams come together and share their awesome solutions in front of trained judges, friends and family, and other teams from all over the state!  The winners at the Illinois state competition will earn the right to represent Illinois at the annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals competition, which takes place each year in late May and is held at a large university in the U.S. (past sites have included Iowa State, Michigan State, University of Maryland - College Park, University of Colorado - Boulder, University of Tennessee - Knoxville).  World Finals is an international weeklong celebration of creativity, fun, teamwork, and so much more!  It truly is a one-of-a-kind event!


STEP 5: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


Teams then take the summer off, but before they  do, the previews for the following year's problems will have been released! That means teams can dream up what their solutions may be for the following year's problems.  The full Long-Term Problems are released in August/September and the cycle repeats.  Importantly, each year teams come back stronger, smarter, and more creative than before. OM truly changes lives for the better, so what are you waiting for?! Bring OM into your child's life today!


bottom of page