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Coordinator FAQs

Please review our list of frequently asked questions for school coordinators. If your question isn’t answered here, please contact our school coordinator liaisons.

FAQs for Odyssey Coordinators

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:

  • 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

What are the total costs for participating in Odyssey of the Mind?

School/group Odyssey of the Mind membership:  $135 (see here for savings options)
Regional Tournament registration:  $75-85 per team
Coaches Training (recommended):  $20 per coach ($0 for school coordinators)
Individual team costs:  Varies per team


  • The $135 membership is often paid for by the school or by a PTA/PTO group. This permits your school to have one team per problem per division. This fee is paid to the organization that creates the problem statements and administers the international program.
  • Fees for tournament registration and Coaches Training are at times sponsored by the school or PTA/PTO; in other cases, teams pay for these directly. These fees are paid to the NoVA North Region and cover the costs of renting the tournament facilities, training judges, and associated costs to execute the tournament. All judges and officials are unpaid volunteers.
  • Team costs are the supplies that the team purchases to create their solution and any snacks, team t-shirts, or other incidentals that the team may want to purchase.
  • Please note that the cost limits listed in the problem snyopses and official problem statements are NOT the fees for the program. These limits pertain to the team-created solution and are explained more fully in the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide.

How do I start Odyssey of the Mind at my school?

We have prepared a list of ten simple steps to establishing an Odyssey program at your school. If you still have questions, please contact our school coordinator liaisons.

What if my school receives Title I federal funding and cannot afford the membership fee for the program?

The NoVA North Regional Board and all Odyssey organizations are dedicated to ensuring the affordability of the program. Our goal is to make the Odyssey program available to all schools and students that want to participate.

Moderate CCI membership and tournament registration fees, along with the cost limit of the long-term problems, are intended to maximize the availability of the program for all schools. However we believe that some of our schools eligible to receive Title I federal funding may decide not to participate in the Odyssey program because of these costs.

If your school faces this financial challenge, then we encourage you to contact our Regional Director to discuss how we might be able to help. All discussion will be confidential.

What is the role of a school coordinator?

Finding someone to serve as a school coordinator is an important first step. The school coordinator primarily:

  • Promotes the program to students and parents
  • Forms teams
  • Submits the school membership application to the international Odyssey of the Mind organization
  • Makes sure coaches receive the information they need to manage their teams
  • Ensures that all teams are registered for the Regional Tournament

How do I know which Odyssey of the Mind region my school falls under?

You can read through our detailed description of the new NoVA regional boundaries. If you’re still not sure, you can check our listing of Northern Virginia schools to determine which region you’re part of.

What if a team is in a situation where they cannot afford the costs of the program?

The NoVA North Regional Board and all Odyssey organizations are dedicated to ensuring the affordability of the program. Our goal is to make the Odyssey program available to all schools and students that want to participate.

Moderate CCI membership and tournament registration fees, along with the cost limit of the long-term problems, are intended to maximize the availability of the program for all schools. However we believe that some of our teams may decide not to participate in the Odyssey program because of these costs.

If your team faces a financial challenge, then we encourage you to contact our Regional Director to discuss how we might be able to help. All discussion will be confidential.

If a team advances to the Virginia State Tournament, who pays the expenses of going?

Each team usually pays its own expenses. How the team raises the funds is up to the students, their coaches, and parents.

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.

How many teams from my school can compete under one membership?

For more information about the number of teams that can compete from your school, please see our page called How Memberships Work.

How do I get approval for the program at my school?

  1. Talk to your principal or school activities coordinator EARLY to see if they are willing to sponsor Odyssey of the Mind at your school.
  2. Let the principal know that you would need to be able to send flyers home with students and possibly hold an informational meeting at the school to promote the program.
  3. Find out if a faculty adviser is required and what rules the school might have in place concerning meeting times and spaces.
  4. Once approval is given for the program and you have developed interest at the school, you can register the school for membership on the International Odyssey of the Mind web site under the school name. The initial school registration will allow the school to have one team per problem per division. If you are going to have more than one team competing in the same problem in the same division, you will need a second team membership, and we see this happening more frequently as interest in Odyssey grows at schools. For more information, see our page on How Memberships Work.

How many team members can participate on a primary team?

Each primary team is limited to 7 members, just like the other divisions.

In the past, primary teams were permitted to have 8 members, but the Program Guide now clearly states, “Up to seven members may participate on any Odyssey of the Mind team from Primary through Division IV.” There is no exception for primary teams.

Can a student from another school compete on one of our teams?

According to the Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide, the following rules apply in this situation:

In most circumstances, all team members come from the same school. However, multischool teams — those made up of students from different schools — are permitted as long as all the schools have a current membership. Multi-school teams may choose which school name they wish to use for registering their team, but they may only compete at one regional tournament, even though the multiple schools may be located in more than one region.

Furthermore, each team is allowed one student that attends a different school without a membership, but who resides in the same general area. However, the team members must agree and must have permission from principals from both schools involved. If a team member transfers to another school he/she may continue on the team until the end of the competition year, provided both school administrations approve.

How many primary teams can my school enter in the competition?

Every school may have an unlimited number of primary teams per membership, but every team must supply ONE judge and ONE volunteer to help at the Regional Tournament.

What if my students are home-schooled or wish to form a program outside of their school?

For more information about the different types of memberships available, including those outside of the standard K-12 school system, please see our page called How Memberships Work.

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.

Where can I find the problem descriptions for this year?

The long-term problem synopses for this season can be found on the Synopses page of this web site.

  • These synopses are just intended to give teams an introduction to the problems.
  • After the school coordinator or sponsor has registered the school at the international Odyssey of the Mind web site for membership, that person will receive copies of the full long-term problem statements, which can then be shared with the teams.Teams must create their solution using the full long-term problem statement because that contains the complete set of rules and requirements for the problem.
  • Additional rules that apply to all problems are contained within the Program Guide.

For teams with “new parents,” is there an existing set of materials or fact sheet for the kickoff meeting?

The sections for Coaches and Parents on our website have a variety of informative materials you can use. The Coach’s Handbook has some suggestions for both what to do in the first few team meetings and how to work with parents.

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.

Can parents judge the problem their children are competing in so they can see the performance?

To avoid as much conflict of interest as we can, we never assign somebody to judge the same problem that their children are competing in.

How does a team choose a long-term problem?

It is up to the individual school membership to decide how teams will select a problem. At some schools, the coordinator assigns problems to the teams. At other schools, each team chooses the problem they prefer. Some schools mix these approaches.

If your team gets to choose the problem, one possible process would be to have the team read the synopsis for each problem on our website to see if any of the problems sparks an interest or ideas. Then read the problem statement entirely and take a vote. Remember that Problems 1 (Vehicle), 2 (Technical), and 4 (Balsa Structure) have technical requirements (that is, something has to be built) in addition to the creation of the 8-minute skit.

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 for information about team size; a link to it is available on the Resources page.

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 for details; a link to it is available on the Resources page.

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.

Can each long-term problem only be worked on by one team at a school?

It is possible to have more than one team from a school do the same problem. Each CCI membership permits the school to have one team per problem per division. If the teams doing the same problem are in different divisions (e.g., Division 1 and Division 2), only one school membership is required. If more than one team decides to solve the same problem AND they are in the same division, then the school must purchase an additional membership from CCI for each additional team in that same problem and division.

When will we have access to the full problem statements and not just the one-paragraph synopses?

In the Odyssey program, there are two organizations involved with your participation in the Regional Tournament. Creative Competitions, Inc. (CCI) is the group that administers the program internationally. Synopses of the problems are posted on the CCI web site. After the coordinator has registered and paid for the membership on the CCI site, they will receive the problem statements in the mail.

Our regional NoVA North organization plans and provides the Regional Tournament, but we do not post the problems on our website since they have to be purchased through the registration process from CCI.

What is the fourth required long-term form, other than Outside Assistance, Cost, and Style?

Many problem statements include a “list” described in Part B. It is not “required” (there is no penalty if it isn’t provided); however, it is extremely helpful to provide so that the judges do not miss or misunderstand an element. The list is a valuable tool for the team to assist the judges, where the team can identify and describe briefly the details of their performance and tell the judges when things will happen and what to watch for. List forms are not included in the Program Guide. List forms are available in the Members Area at the Odyssey of the Mind website, which requires the membership number and associated zip code for access. Contact your school coordinator to obtain this information.

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.

If more than one team in a school is doing a problem, can the teams build and share a staging and performance practice area?

Teams can share a basic practice area, such as a classroom, but they cannot share ideas, props, set pieces, designs, or costumes. Also, if the teams reproduce the Competition Site to practice on as described in the problem, each team must build its own site from scratch, without seeing any markings or the physical layout used by other teams.

Where can I purchase balsa wood in bulk?

We have had numerous requests lately for recommendations of mail order companies that sell balsa wood. Here are two we know of:

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