What is Odyssey of the Mind?

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their ingenuity and creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the regional, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and about 25 other countries from around the world participate in the program.

So where does New Jersey fit in?

Odyssey of the Mind has its roots in the Industrial Design classes of Dr. Sam Micklus. Dr. Sam (as he’s affectionately known in Odyssey circles) was a professor at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey (formerly Glassboro State College), where he challenged his students to create vehicles without wheels, mechanical pie throwers and flotation devices that would take them across a course on a lake. He evaluated them not on the success of their solutions, but on the ingenuity applied and the risk involved in trying something new and different. Students had fun, word spread and the students’ activities attracted attention from the local media. Soon, people on the outside wanted a part of the action. This public interest led to the development of a creative problem-solving competition for school children. In 1978, Odyssey of the Mind was born. It is because of this history that the New Jersey association of Odyssey of the Mind is proud to be known as the birthplace of creative problem solving.

What is CU in NJ?

New Jersey Odyssey of the Mind is sponsored by Creativity Unlimited in New Jersey (CUinNJ), a non-profit all-volunteer organization developed for the sole purpose of bringing OotM to the students of New Jersey. We hold three regional competitions (Skylands, Gateway and Coastal Plaines) traditionally in March, followed by the NJ State Finals a few weeks later. The winners from the State Finals in each problem and division advance to the World Finals held on a college campus in May. We offer Coaches’ Trainings in the fall to provide information on forming teams, registering teams for tournaments, getting your team ready for the tournament and much more. Coaches can be teachers, parents or any adult willing to coach. We also require teams to provide volunteer judges who attend training in January and volunteer their time at the tournaments.

How do I get my child started in Odyssey of the Mind?

We do not place students on individual teams but are happy to help schools and districts get started with OotM. Schools purchase memberships from Creative Competitions, Inc., the company which markets the Odyssey of the Mind program. A membership costs $135 and gives the school access to the program guide and the current year’s problems, and allows the school to participate in OotM activities within NJ (tournaments and trainings). Memberships can also be sponsored by community organizations, such as a church or synagogue, a scouting organization, or a local library. Once a school has purchased a membership, it can begin to form teams of 5-7 students who choose to work on solving one of the problems. There are three divisions and 5 different types of problems. (The divisions are K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.) A school that is grades 6-8, for example, will be able to enter into competition on the regional level one team in each problem, for a total of five teams. If the school is grades 5-8 it could enter 10 teams – one in each problem in two different divisions. Some problems are more technical in nature while others are more performance-focused, but all problems have elements of both. Students typically work on the problems starting in the fall to prepare to attend the tournaments in the spring. There is a tournament fee per team to compete in each tournament. Currently our tournament fee is $75 per team.

Is OotM only for ‘gifted’ children? Does it have to be done during the school day as a class?

Odyssey of the Mind is for all children! While some schools choose to use OotM in their Gifted and Talented curriculum the program teaches creativity, teamwork and spontaneous thinking – things that all students can benefit from. The majority of teams are done as extracurricular and they work an afternoon or two during the week in the fall and then move on to more time on their own and after school as it gets into the winter and towards competition. However, Odyssey also works very well in a classroom situation because you can incorporate teamwork and creative problem solving with science, math and art as Odyssey covers technology, physics, writing, visual arts, theater and much more.

If you still have questions or need help registering your membership, please email questions@njootm.org and we will get back to you quickly!