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Don’t [only] pay retail

As we discussed earlier, there is a big difference between the maximum value of your team’s solution and the amount of actual out-of-pocket money that it costs to produce the props, set, costumes, and other artifacts that are used in the solution. For some teams, the out-of-pocket expense may be significant, but with a little creativity your team should be able to find most or all of the supplies it needs at little to no cost (although, of course, the team needs to account for these items with appropriate nominal costs on their Material Cost Form.)

Thinking about sources of materials makes an ideal verbal spontaneous exercise. “If you were looking for materials to make [name of prop or costume] where could you look?”

Or you could flip the exercise with a verbal-hands-on spontaneous. Bring a box of random items (or ask parents to send in things they have in the basement) and challenge the team to think of what they could make out of them. The suggestions do not have to be related to their solution – the exercise will just help the team to think about less obvious uses of common items and materials.)

Finally, think about places where the team can “shop” for free and low-cost items. Some good sources are:

  • Thrift stores, garage sales and moving sales. Don’t forget to look at the dumpster outside thrift stores’ donation drop-offs. If a donated item is broken it will be thrown away – but your team may be able to use it in some way.
  • Dollar stores and the dollar aisle at big box stores such as Target and Walmart.
  • After holiday clearance sales. Post-Halloween is a great time to shop if your team has an idea of what they will need. They may find just the wig they need at 90% off (remember, though, that it is more creative to make a costume than buy one!). Bargains can also be found after Christmas and after Valentine’s Day.
  • Online sources such as craigslist and other free trading sites may yield items that can be turned into props or costumes
  • Targeted recycling. Need a piece of carpet? Go to a carpet store and ask for permission to recycle their discarded scraps. Wheels? Think about businesses that discard items with wheels that they might not mind recycling instead of discarding.

As with all of Odyssey of the Mind, your team’s sources of materials are only as limited as their creativity.

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