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Each membership packet includes five competitive long-term problems, whose subject matter varies from the technical to the artistic to the classical. Teams choose the problem they wish to solve and create a solution to present in competition against other teams in the same division. Teams begin preparing their long-term solutions weeks or months before competition. Each problem includes one or more objectives, a set of limitations and requirements, and specific scoring categories. The problems offered are different each year, and the requirements and limitations change.

Types of Problems

  • Problem 1: Vehicle – Teams design, build and operate one or more vehicles. Sometimes they’re small, other times they’re big enough to ride on and transport other items. Generally the vehicles are scored on their propulsion system, and for traveling and completing different tasks.
  • Problem 2: Technical/Performance – Teams are scored for performance elements as well as for some type of technical achievement. Usually, this problem requires the team to create one or more devices that perform certain functions or tasks.
  • Problem 3: Classics – This is a performance problem based on something “classical.” It could involve mythology, art, music, archaeology, or anything else that is classical in nature.
  • Problem 4: Structure – Teams design and build a structure out of only balsa wood and glue. They test the structure by adding Olympic-size weights until it breaks. Each year there is an element of the problem that sets it apart from other years, for example, having the structure endure the impact of a ball propelled down a ramp.
  • Problem 5: Performance – This is a performance problem, where scoring is based mostly on the performance and elements within the performance. It sometimes requires a specific character, sometimes humor, sometimes an original story, sometimes a special effect, but it’s always fun!
  • Primary problem (grades K-2): This problem's intent is to introduce younger children to the creative problem-solving process. To prepare students for Odyssey of the Mind competitions, the format of the primary problem is very similar to that of the competitive long-term problems. Although there is no competition at the primary level, teams will be invited to display their solutions at an official tournament.

Long-Term Scoring

The team earning the highest score for each long-term problem and division in a competition is awarded 200 points unless the problem states otherwise. Style is scored separately out of 50 points. Every other team receives a percentage of 200 based on its raw score in relation to the highest raw score. Any penalty points are deducted after scores are calculated. For a fuller description, see scoring.

Framing the Problem

How a problem is stated can often influence the success of a team in solving it. Coaches should learn to state a question in a way that allows for many possible solutions. Essentially, coaches never want to ask “how can you build a doghouse?”, but, rather, they should want to ask “how can you find a better way to have a place for a dog to live?” Coaches must be careful, however, of two things: in restating the question, they must not lead the team towards a solution THEY have thought of (outside assistance); and in restating the question, they keep the original objective as a goal. (Designing something for “an animal” would not result, necessarily, in something for a dog!)

Suggestions for Approaching the Problem

Each coach and each team will have their own approach, and these are only intended as a springboard for team's individual methods of working. Also, spontaneous problems should be practiced all year - don't just prepare early in the season or right before the tournament!

Stage 1: Understand the Problem

The whole team reads Section A of the Long-Term Problem out loud. Discuss what this problem is all about. What does the problem say are the areas where creativity is emphasized? What does the problem say are the general goals? The team should discuss and brainstorm their initial reactions and ideas … and perhaps write them down. (For Division 1 and Primary, coaches may write down the team’s ideas, but they must be the team's exact words!)

Have the team read Section B. Take lots of time with this one … it is the “meat” of the problem. Ask some questions that promote divergent thinking and many possible solutions.

  • Note that 8 minutes includes set-up time.
  • Note the cost limit, and discuss the Cost Form.
  • Talk about all the limitations for your particular problem – how many, what minimum, how measured, what type, etc. of things are required.
  • What can the team do or not do?
  • Where can the team stand or not stand?
  • What forms does the team need to give the Staging Area Judge?

At the team's next meeting (after a lot of discussion of Sections A and B), the team should read Section F, Style. Talk about how style fits into the Long-Term solution, and what style IS. Brainstorm style a little bit, and ask if the team has any ideas for the free choice elements or whether they want to see what develops! Don't forget that all talk and no play makes for dull Odyssey meetings — spontaneous practices are great to add at this point, when there is time and coaches are trying to build teamwork and have fun!

Next, the team should read section C and talk about how the set-up fits in with Section B, Limitations. Read Sections D and E, Scoring and Penalties. Talk about scores as feedback, and about budgeting time according to what is scored. Talk about how the team might divide into sub-groups … and whether they wish to do so. Examine penalties and how to avoid them.

Stage 2: Brainstorm and Research

Now the team should have a pretty good understanding of what is expected and what their ideas for a problem solution are. Some next steps might be for the TEAM (not the coach) to:

  • Do research into subjects related to the Long-Term Solution
  • Examine how things work that might relate to an item they want to make or build (hinges, motors, gears, pulleys, PVC, etc)
  • Build models of items they plan to make. Prototypes quickly show whether a specific design is usable, and allow the team the opportunity to discuss further options to their design.
  • Learn the skills they need to work on the solution (the coach should not steer the team to any solution by * suggesting certain skills to learn).
  • Go to craft, home supply or hobby stores and investigate what materials are available and how much they cost.
  • Experiment with different materials.
  • Decide who is working on what parts of the solution.
  • Begin outlining the performance or script.

If at any time the team is confused about the wording of the problem or the “legality” of their solution, the team should submit a clarification.

Stage 3: Create

After thoroughly understanding the problem and experimenting with different solutions, the team should begin building their props, costumes, technical devices, and writing the script. Teams typically determine the theme at the beginning and develop their props, costumes, backdrops around that theme, keeping in mind the need to incorporate all of the required elements of the problem. Parents must be careful at this time not to give any outside assistance!

For older and more experienced teams, dividing up workload and having team members take responsibility for different areas of the solution often makes for a more efficient use of time. Team meetings can then be used as feedback sessions instead of group building time. For example, one team member would write the skit based on an agreed-upon theme. They would then bring a draft to the team meeting where the whole team would read it together and offer feedback.

Teams usually have a good start on building props, designing costumes, and finishing the script by December. It is advised to leave a month before competition as a time for teams to practice their performance, ensure props are working correctly, and time themselves to be certain they are under the 8 minute time limit.

Stage 4: Practice

Run-throughs are absolutely necessary to both perform well at competition and refine the skit. Oftentimes teams will realize that an idea that looked amazing on the drawing board doesn't work well during a run-through. Teams should record themselves as they practice (coaches can help with this task) to view their stage presence, blocking, and if the humor of the skit makes sense.

Continue to refine and revise as competition grows nearer. Which mechanisms work? Does the proposed solution still fit the problem? Are all the scoring elements covered? Have clarifications impacted the developing solution?

It is advised to leave a month before competition as a time for teams to practice their performance, ensure props are working correctly, and time themselves to be certain they are under the 8 minute time limit. In addition, plan for technical failures - what happens in the skit if the backdrop doesn't transition or the vehicle won't move? What's our backup plan?

The team should practice moving props and set from a staging area to the performance area. To simulate the competition site, put at least 10 feet between the staging and performance areas. Remember that 8 minutes of performance time includes moving from staging to performance. Teams will generally not know the exact layout of the performance are until competition.

Coaches could simulate the role of the timekeeper before the performance:

  • Judge: “Welcome to this years OotM tournament.”
  • Judge: “We are proud to present the team from School [ABC].
  • Judge: “Judges, are you ready?”
  • Judges: <creative response from judges that goes along with the problem>
  • Judge: “Team, are you ready?”
  • Team: <team's starting signal>
  • Judge: “Team, you may begin!” (Start 8 minute stopwatch)
  • Team: <moves from staging to performance area and performs skit>
  • Team: shouts “Time!” (or whatever signal they choose to end the skit.)

Stage 5: Compete

Bring all that hard work together and wow the judges! For a full description of what to expect, see preparing for the tournament and tournament day.

Examples of problem solutions

Below are performances by teams organized into problem and division. Watching other teams' solutions is a great idea for new teams to understand how a tournament performance works and the level of competition. However, many of these teams come from established programs or have competed for several years, so don't feel intimidated by their solution if coming from a new program. Watching solutions to the current year solutions is considered Outside Assistance! Only watch past years performances.

Problem 1 Problem 2 Problem 3 Problem 4 Problem 5
Div.I Ooh-Motional Vehicle, Stamford Youth Foundation Not So Haunted House, Rowlett Academy ARTchitecture: The Musical, Howard Drive Elementary School You Make the Call, Owen J Roberts Vincent Elementary School Silent Movie, Jamwon Elementary School
Pet Project , Traut Core Knowledge Elementary As Good as Goldberg, DeMiguel Elementary School Le Tour Guide, Moon Elementary Shock Waves, Horizon Elementary Food Court, Anglo Chinese School
Div.II Ooh-Motional Vehicle, Box of Light The Email Must go Through, Fort Couch Middle School Team B Le Tour Guide, South Charlotte Middle School Lose Your Marbles, Rachel Carson Middle School Tm A It's How You Look at It, Thornapple Kellogg Middle School
Drivers Test, Collingswood Rec The Email Must go Through, Stillwater Creativity Team A The Lost Labor of Heracles, Turner Middle School Lose Your Marbles, CW Davis Middle School It's How You Look at It, Carmel Middle School
Div.III STFA Lee Shau Kee College, Ooh-Motional Vehicle Not So Haunted House, North Penn HS Le Tour Guide, Upper St. Clair You Make the Call , Erie High School Full Circle, Myers Park White
Osrodek Psychoedukacji Damb, Driver's Test Gift of Flight, Quest Homeschoolers It's How We Rule, STFA Lee Shau Kee College Shock Waves , York Central School Seeing is Believing, Evart High School
Div.IV ARTchetecture the Musical, OSU You Make the Call , St. Jose Ministries Not So Haunted House, Anglo Chinese School
Primary World's First Art Festival, Enterprise Elementary
long_term.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/12 02:30 (external edit)