Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Odyssey of the Mind unique?

All of the work our teams do, is done by the team alone- not even the coach can contribute ideas or help make the props, structures, devices, vehicles, etc! This way the teams develop teamwork skills, problem-solving strategies and creativity; valuable skills that will last a lifetime. We believe CREATIVITY CAN BE LEARNED and BE  GREAT FUN!

In addition to the Long Term problems, the teams must solve a problem they have never seen before at the Competition! We call this SPONTANEOUS. They might have to build a bridge out of toothpicks, straws, marshmallows, paperclips and paper or they might have to figure out how to get water out of an imaginary pond! You never know what you’ll be asked to do in  SPONTANEOUS!  But it’s all fun!!

When does it start and how do we get started?

Our season starts in September.

Odyssey of the Mind is organized in teams of 5-7 students (grades K-12) supervised by an adult coach or two, sponsored by schools or community organizations. Teachers, parents or other family/community members can be the COACHES and other parents, teachers and family members can be the JUDGES or VOLUNTEERS at our competition.

Teams meet weekly for an hour or two to plan, design and build their solutions to the problem they have chosen.

We are an all-volunteer organization that works together to make this possible for the students in Connecticut.

The team selects one of the 6 problems from the problem synopsis list to work on from October to March. Don’t worry, we can help- we have Coach Training, skill development and other resources to help you get started. Most of us have been coaches and found the experience to be rewarding and remarkable- a great way to spend quality time with our kids! Find out more by clicking on ABOUT US, Start A Team, and Events.  There is even more information from our National Organization at www.odysseyofthemind.

Why do Odyssey of the Mind?

One of our Odyssey alums recently reflected how Odyssey made a difference:

“It completely changed my life. I grew from a painfully shy child who rarely said a word to a teen acting on stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people I didn’t know at World Finals as an Odyssey team member to an adult now managing my own team at work, using what I learned in Odyssey as a model.“ And THAT is why we do this! For each student the benefits are different, but for all it is a remarkable experience that builds skills that last a lifetime.

How can we have a positive registration experience?

The first secret is to start early! Get your registration ready and submitted early.  Decide who the team members are and choose your Long Term problem by mid October. This gives the team plenty of time to brainstorm about who might represent them as a judge and volunteer. It also gets the coaches on track early enough so that they can attend the first Coach Development session. Because holiday time is such a busy time, waiting until the last minute to find your judge and volunteer puts your team at a terrible disadvantage. Teams should apply their best problem solving techniques, in the Spirit of Odyssey, to the challenge of recruiting a committed judge and volunteer EARLY.

Why do you require each team to supply a judge?

Judges are a critical component of creating high quality tournaments that are fair and positive experiences for the teams that have worked for months on their problems. The number of judges needed each year actually exceeds the number of teams and coaches. Without sufficient, well-trained judges the competitions cannot be held.

The fairest way to recruit judges is to  require each team to supply a judge that is enthusiastic, available, and committed to making a difference for students. CTOM shares responsibility with teams and coaches for the quality of judging:

CTOM will organize and train judges, recruit experienced judges, and increase the quality of judging each year.

Teams and Coaches can do their part by selecting and recruiting an excellent judge.

Together we determine the level of excellence of our tournaments, and the satisfaction of each and every participant.

Why does CTOM need so many judges?

The number of judges needed each year actually exceeds the number of teams and coaches. To see how this works mathematically we need to know how big a judging team is, and how many judging teams we need.

Each Problem requires at least one Long-Term judging Team, one Spontaneous judging Team, and a judge for the Scoring room.

The minimum total is 12: 1-Scoring room, 3-Spontaneous – Long-Term: 1-Head Judge, 2-Problem, 2-Style, 1-Timer, 1-Scorer, 1-Staging.

Each Division of each Problem must be judged by the same team, trained in that problem. Occasionally two or three divisions of the same problem can be judged by a single team.

To provide quality judging and a quality experience for everyone (participants, parents, coaches, judges), CTOM’s goals are to have reasonable tournament hours and a reasonable judging load for each judging team. While experienced International judging teams can handle 60+ teams in 2.5 days, long hours with compressed schedules would not be workable for our judges , nor be appreciated by participants and their families.


  • 22 teams in the same Problem and Division: Requires: 36 judges in 3 Judging Teams (2-Semi-Finals, 1-Finals)
  • 17 teams in same Problem and Division: Requires: 12 judges
  • 21 teams in same Problem, (9,7,5 teams in Divisions I, II and III respectively): Requires: 24 judges in 2 judging teams (one does Div II and III)
  • 5 teams in same Problem, ( 3, 2 teams in Divisions II and III respectively): Requires: 12 judges in one judging team

So you can see that we need significantly more judges than teams. Fortunately, we are normally able to make up the shortfall with experienced unaffiliated judges .

Why is judge training required?

As any coach or team member can tell you, all of the long-term problems are complex. In order to fairly evaluate teams and their solutions, each judge must have a clear and complete understanding of the intricacies of the problem requirements and issues. In addition, judges must be consistent in their interpretation of the problem and knowledgeable of the Odyssey rules in order to provide a FAIR competition that honors the student’s hard work. CTOM wants to make sure the team members have the best experience possible. Learning how to handle issues of outside assistance constructively, remembering that we are helping children grow and develop to be their best is a major area covered in the judge training.

Why are experienced judges required to go to training?

In order to provide ever increasing quality; CTOM requires that all Judges attend training each year.

While the attributes of a good judge never change, the problem and rules change every year.  It is necessary review the new problems each year so that judges are prepared to judge problems fairly.  Also experienced judges will assist with the training for new judges.

Why is there a judge no-show penalty?

Well trained and committed Judges is key to providing a fair, effective, and valuable tournament experience. CTOM and other Odyssey states wrestle with this problem each year. There are no easy answers. CTOM requires each team to supply a judge and have that judge sign a form that they will attend training and one tournament.  We chose to impose a $250 penalty in order for teams with no-show judge at either training OR a tournament to be scored. Without paying the penalty, teams may compete but will not be scored, and nor will they be eligible for ranking. Of the options available we feel that this provides a strong incentive to have enough judges, while providing the fewest penalties to team members for the actions of adults.

We would much rather have all the judge and collect none of the penalties. CTOM reluctantly imposes this fine, we prefer that all judges meet their commitments so that we do not have to collect a single fine. Our goal is to produce a program that places the responsibility for finding judges and volunteers equitably on all of us, honors the hard work of the children, and celebrates it all at a tournament that is well-run, fair, and fun for everyone involved!

How can we avoid the judge no-show penalty?

Here are some suggestions to avoid a judge no-show:

Find a responsible reliable person to nominate — explain to her/him the value of Odyssey of the Mind. Experience has shown that the best judges are friends, neighbors, and teachers of team members that are committed to education in general, and are recruited with enthusiasm for the Odyssey of the Mind Program. Parents and other relatives are not always the best choice because although they are committed, most are disappointed when they find that, as Judges, they will not be able to see their child perform – be sure to tell them this so their agreement to serve is fully understood.

Recruit judges by describing the judging opportunity to “see creativity in action! Judging requires 2 days of your time. CTOM will train you and you will receive a lunch, a cool t-shirt and a CTOM pin — plus have great FUN!!!”. It is especially important that judges are aware that they must attend the training and tournaments for which they have committed. Their failure to live up to that commitment has a negative effect on the team.

Make sure the Judge reads, understands, and personally signs the Judge Registration Form. Make sure the Judge has checked his/her calendar and is available for each of the dates committed to, understands that they must attend the whole day, and cannot arrive even a few minutes late for a tournament , and that the team is counting on them. Missing will cost the team $250 or access to their scores. Call to check with and remind the Judge, the week before and the day before the training and the tournament.

Helpful tips:

Have the team send the Judge a thank-you card signed by the whole team as soon as he/she signs the commitment form.

Have a back-up Judge available who can go to training and Judge at the same tournament, if the submitted one has a last minute problem on the training date. (Note: this works for training, not the tournament)

Who can coach an Odyssey team?

A parent, teacher or adult volunteer can be a coach. Coaches must be committed to organizing and administering to team meetings – typically weekly in preparation for the CT state tournament. In addition to team meetings, parent volunteers can be organized by coaches or asst. coaches, to help with meeting coordination and scheduling conflicts. Experienced coaches are ready to assist and advise, along with CTOM Association director and board members.

Can teams solve multiple problems?

Teams have competed in multiple problems in past tournaments. The only caveat is scheduling for long term and spontaneous for multiple problems can be an issue on tournament day. CTOM will accommodate teams solving multiple problems as long as it does not create scheduling issues.

Can teams who qualify for world finals, decide to change their solution?

Teams can change, modify or adjust their solution at any time.

Does CTOM pay for teams to travel to world finals?

All teams fund their travel and lodging/food while competing at world finals. CTOM is a non-profit organization and does not reimburse teams or coaches for travel or lodging expenses.

Are teams allowed to design their own t-shirts and pins?

Teams may design their own t-shirts and pins for wear or trading at any competition. The fine print:

  • The Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide advises that “The team must assume responsibility for using any other registered trademarks such as the NIKE swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, etc. Teams must be aware that they could be prosecuted by trademark holders if they use registered marks without obtaining permission from the owner.”
  • CTOM Policy for use of CTOM Name & Logo: Trademark Use Prohibited Unless Expressly Approved in Writing CTOM, Inc. trademarks may not be used by anyone or for any purpose not expressly approved in writing by either the CTOM Board of Directors, or the CTOM Executive Board. Neither the Association Director nor any Board Member has the authority to approve their use. All uses are prohibited unless specifically approved including the following: Use of any CTOM trademark or similar creation on any item for
    sale, gift, or trade including pins and tee-shirts; Use of any CTOM trademark or similar creation on any item on documents or marketing materials.