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Congratulations!  If you are reading these words it's because you are thinking about  starting an Odyssey of the Mind (OM) program at your school or in your community!  From experience, we can assure you that OM is a positive, life-changing program for the students, teachers, and families involved.  Over 40 years of alumni attest to the same: OM prepares young minds for the challenges and opportunities awaiting them in the world, and YOU will forever change the trajectory of these students' lives through OM for the better!

Here's how it works:

       1. OM consists of 3 parts: 1) the Long-Term Problem, 2) Style, and 3) Spontaneous.

       2. Teams consisting of up to 7 students will choose *one* of five possible Long-Term Problems to solve.

           Here are this year's Long-Term Problems (click on a name to access a full PDF copy of the problem)...

Problem 1: Longshot Solution

Problem 2: Net Working

Problem 3: Classics...The Effective Detective

Problem 4: Balsa Limbo

Problem 5: Gibberish or Not

Note: There is also a primary school Long-Term Problem for students K-2 - The Fashion Bug

3. The Long-Term Problems encourage students to use creativity and divergent thinking to develop a

    solution to the problem outlined.  Some constraints (i.e., "limitations") are listed, as well as a cost limit

    for materials and a time limit for performing their solution, as science tells us some constraints enhance 

    creativity.  Otherwise, if the Long-Term Problem doesn't say a team can't do something, then it can!  

    To see teams solving problems from previous years, check out YouTube. Here's one example.

4. Style: when solving the Long-Term Problem, teams have an opportunity to show off unique talents,

    ideas, or approaches that are *not required* by the Long-Term Problem but that the team wants to

    include to put its unique "stamp" on the solution. This is called "Style." In the Long-Term Problem a

    section dedicated to "Style" gives teams two required Style elements they must include, two additional        Style elements that the team gets to dream up (as long as it isn't something already scored in the

    problem), and an "Overall Effect" that ties all the Style elements together to explain how they work

   together to enhance the Long-Term solution.

5. Spontaneous: Separate from the Long-Term Problem and Style (which are presented simultaneously),

    all teams also solve a Spontaneous Problem at competition. Spontaneous is like improv: you don't know

    what to expect until you walk into the room to solve the problem. There are ways to practice

    Spontaneous, however, and the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide includes sample Spontaneous

    Problems to help prepare teams.  Googling "Spontaneous Problems" will also turn up lots of examples!

6. Teams spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months solving their Long-Term Problem and

    practicing Spontaneous Problems before competing in the Illinois Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

    First- and second-place winners at the Illinois tournament represent the state of Illinois at the annual

    Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in late May, where 15,000+ people from nearly 30 nations come

    together to celebrate creativity!  To help new groups prioritize their time and prepare for competition, we

    provide a super useful "how-to" guide, which includes a "10-weeks to competition" schedule. You can

    access that document here.

And that's it!  OM is a comprehensive program, but the cost limits, time constraints, and creativity keep the playing field fair for all students.  What matters most is creativity.  Teams at World Finals often win without any elaborate props or backdrops because they used creativity to solve their problem.  Odyssey of the Mind truly is an "odyssey" because so much learning happens on the journey. All you have to do is take the first step!

So, are you ready to get started and change some lives?

Send us an email at to get started.

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