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Judge FAQs

Please review our list of frequently asked questions for judges. If your question isn’t answered here, please contact our Judges Coordinator.

FAQs for Odyssey Judges

What is Odyssey of the Mind?

The Odyssey of the Mind program brings together teams of up to 7 students to begin a journey of creative problem-solving, team building, and fun! As described on the international organization’s web site:

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 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 local, state, and world level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.

During the course of the year, team members will:

  • Practice DIVERGENT THINKING
  • Learn to work as part of a team
  • Develop communication skills
  • Take responsibility and complete tasks on schedule
  • Take calculated risks in the solution of complex problems
  • Develop confidence in their own capabilities and ideas

How do I find the information I need throughout the year?

While the international Odyssey of the Mind web site and the Virginia state VOICES web site have some great resources, you will find all the information you need right here on our NoVA North Region 9 web site.

You can also subscribe for email updates so that you’ll know whenever we add new information to the site. Just enter your email address in the field on the right side of the page.

Who pays the expenses for a judge to go to the State Tournament?

Generally, each judge pays his or her own expenses.

Can the performance be less than 8 minutes?

Yes. The time limit for each performance is a maximum of 8 minutes. In some problems, such as Classics and Drama, a penalty will be assessed if the performance exceeds 8 minutes and the performance will be stopped at 9 minutes. In other problems, such as Vehicle and Balsa, the performance is simply stopped at 8 minutes. There is no penalty, but teams are not allowed to continue if they haven’t completed all of the assigned tasks. Review the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide, page 46, and the individual problem statement for further information.

If a team advances to different levels (states, worlds), does the performance have to stay exactly the same or can it be changed or improved?

If a team advances to the next level, they can use the same solution or an entirely new solution. Keeping in mind that, at the next level, the team will be competing with teams that placed at their tournaments, they are encouraged to review their scores and decide if there are any elements that they might adjust to present the most effective solution.

If a team has an 8th mind work on the long-term problem, how many points would they be penalized?

There is a limit to seven members on the team. You should not, under any circumstances, have eight different children participate on the same team. If a team has eight members, an outside assistance penalty of 1-100 points will be assessed. The value of the penalty will be determined on tournament day by the judges who watch the performance, based on their assessment of the magnitude of the offense. It is not possible to predict the penalty prior to the performance. You might want to review the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide, page 45, for further information.

What is Creative Competitions, Inc., also known as CCI?

Creative Competitions, Inc. is the official name of the international Odyssey of the Mind organization.

What is NoVA North Region 9?

NoVA North is one of the regional Odyssey of the Mind associations in Northern Virginia. We were formerly known as NoVA West Region 13. In 2011, the region had grown too large to host a single tournament, and we split into Regions 9 (NoVA North) and 12 (NoVA South). We consist of a volunteer regional board that works with many other volunteers in the area to keep school coordinators up to date, assist coaches in preparing their teams for our tournament, train judges for the tournament, and host the actual tournament, as well as many other functions.

We hope you find this web site useful and that you’ll send our webmaster suggestions or comments so we can make it the best site possible.

What if a team has a mix of ages? For example, there could be 5 third-graders, 1 fifth-grader, and 1 kindergartener, whose attention span is a little less than the others. Would that be a penalty?

There is no penalty for a short attention span, but remember that the team’s score for “quality of performance” includes everything that happens on stage during the performance. Judges will evaluate the performance of all team members.

I received an email from NoVA Odyssey announcing the Regional Tournament, but the date isn’t the same as what is posted on the website. Which date is correct?

The Odyssey program in Northern Virginia is so popular (yay!) that we have five regional organizations and tournaments to make it possible for all of the teams to participate. On the right side of this website under the heading “Odyssey of the Mind Information,” you will see links to the other four regions: Region 11 NoVA Prime, Region 12 NoVA South, Region 14 Catoctin VOICES, and Region 16 Dulles VOICES. Also listed is the link to the State Association – VOICES (Virginia State Odyssey of the Mind).

Loudoun County is divided into Regions 14 and 16. Fairfax County, Arlington, and Alexandria are divided into Regions 9, 11, and 12. If you’re not sure whether your team is part of Region 9, 11, or 12, you can check our breakdown of NoVA schools to find where you are located.

Is it possible to schedule a judge so that they can see a specific team perform?

No. Judges are busy the entire day judging the problem they’ve been assigned to. Judges need to be there for the entire competition. Much of the judging is subjective in nature and therefore consistency in the judging team is essential to provide a fair assessment of the teams’ solutions. If a judge were to leave in the middle of the tournament (due to illness, for instance), we would have to go back and remove that judge’s scores from all of the teams that had competed so far that day.

Can teams watch other teams’ competition performances?

Yes. Indeed, we encourage teams to watch other teams’ long-term performances on tournament day. Teams can watch other teams doing the same long-term problem, as well as teams doing other problems. Teams should NOT watch practice performances by other teams, prior to the Regional Tournament.

Can a team with fewer than 5 members participate in the competition?

Yes. You might want to review the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide, page 18, for information about team size.

What is a membership sign or team sign?

When a team is performing their 8-minute skit, a membership sign must be visible. The sign shows the official membership name and membership number. Please see the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide, pages 42 and 44-45, for details.

For teams competing at the NoVA North Regional Tournament, we recommend that you wait until the tournament schedule is posted to finish work on your membership sign in order to verify what your team’s official membership name and number is. For schools with multiple memberships, you will not be able to determine whether you are Team A or Team B and what your number is until then.

Are the problems different at each level—Regional, State, and Worlds?

The same long-term problems provided by CCI are used at all levels of competition. Spontaneous problems are different at each tournament; a team will never experience the same one at a competition.

If a team advances to the next level, they can use the same long-term solution or an entirely new solution. Keeping in mind that, at the next level, the team will be competing with teams that placed at their tournaments, they are encouraged to review their scores and decide if there are any elements that they might adjust to present the most effective solution.

What if a judge doesn’t know what team they’re representing?

We need more judges than we get by asking for just one judge per competing team, so we rely on unaffiliated judges to fill in the ranks. Therefore some judges may not be representing a specific team.

What if a judge can’t attend the scheduled training?

The judge should contact our Judges Coordinator and the coach of team they are representing immediately! Every competing team must supply at least one judge for the tournament. If they don’t, that team is not officially scored and is therefore ineligible to advance to the next level of competition. So, as soon as the judge finds out they can’t make either training or the tournament, let us know. The coach of the team the judge is representing must find a replacement.

A judge cannot function without having gone through training. It is possible for a judge to meet the training requirement at another local region, but our Judges Coordinator must know in advance.

Can teachers receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or recertification points by volunteering to be a judge?

Yes, we’ll write a letter recommending that judges receive 15 hours of credit for their involvement. The final determination, however, is with each principal. Teachers will have the opportunity to sign up for credit when they register to be a judge, and the letters will be available from the Problem Captains at the tournament.

What requirements are there to being a judge in Odyssey of the Mind?

The only things you need to be a judge for Odyssey of the Mind are:

  • An open mind
  • A friendly smile
  • Two free Saturdays, for training and then for the tournament

How many teams does a single judge see perform at a tournament?

It depends on what problem and division the judge assigned to, but typically, it’s anywhere from 10 to 20 teams.

When do judges choose a judging role or position?

At Judges Training. Judges receive notice in advance of what problem they’ve been assigned to. The judging team as a whole will have an opportunity to discuss the various positions at training and then decide who will fill which positions.

Which division is the most fun to judge?

All of them! (Did you really expect any other answer?) Each division has its own charms. The younger children tend to be less inhibited, to think farther out of the box, and to be more creative. The older children tend to have more complex and polished solutions. This doesn’t mean that a Division III team can’t be outstandingly creative or that a Division I team can’t come up with an amazingly complex solution. In Odyssey, you learn to expect the unexpected. No matter what division you are judging, you will be amazed at the wide variety of solutions you see. If you come into it with an open mind, you will have a great deal of fun.

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