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Parent FAQs

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

FAQs for Odyssey Parents

When will teams know the timeslot for their volunteer coverage responsibility?

When the competition schedule is finalized, each team will be assigned a two-hour timeslot for which they must provide an adult to help with the logistics of the tournament. This may involve serving as a door monitor, helping with team or spontaneous registration, helping with concessions, or another role. The assigned time slot will enable parents to watch the team perform its long-term solution. The assignment will be sent to coaches – it is the coach’s responsibility to identify a parent or other adult to cover the assigned role in the specified timeslot.

What if a judge hasn’t been found and the registration deadline is soon?

A temporary/placeholder judge may be registered; this could be anyone, since this person will not actually be judging.  BUT these steps MUST be followed:

  • The final question on the judge registration form asks for information the judge wants to share.  This MUST indicate that this judge is a temporary placeholder.  The questions about problem preference or children in the tournament should be left as “I don’t know”.
  • Keep looking for a judge.  Remember that this person must be 18 years old by the day of the tournament and does not need to be associated with Odyssey of the Mind.  Please contact the judges coordinator if there are any questions or concerns.
  • As soon as the actual judge is identified, that person should register as a judge.  The final question should be used to indicate that this judge is a replacement for the temporary judge for the team, identifying the team and the temporary judge that is being replaced.   Contact the the judges coordinator if you want to make sure the change has been made.

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.

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 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.

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.

Will teams be able to see the time or a clock during their long-term performances?

  • If there is a clock on the wall in their performance site, the team may look at it.
  • Teams are permitted to have a watch or clock of their own, but it must not beep or vibrate to signal time.
  • The team’s watch or clock is not official time.
  • Teams will not be able to see the official timekeeper’s stopwatch.
  • Teams should practice to develop a performance that takes fewer than 8 minutes.

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 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.

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.

Is it outside assistance for coaches or parents to provide definitions of terms used in the problem?

Yes. Coaches and parents should not provide definitions.

  • Coaches and parents can teach the team how to use a dictionary, thesaurus, or other reference to look up words they don’t know and can help the team truly understand the definition.
  • Coaches can remind the team to check the glossary of terms in the problem and in the Program Guide.
  • Finally, the team can ask for an official clarification on the international Odyssey of the Mind web site if they think a term or rule is incomplete or ambiguous.

Can the team use the Internet and libraries to research possible solutions?

Generally, yes. However, it is outside assistance for the team to look at Internet sites or other references that provide advice or suggestions specific to Odyssey of the Mind long-term problem solutions. Such sites are especially common for the balsa structure problem. When using a library, teams may ask a librarian to help them find books about a topic and to teach them how to use the catalog system to locate books for themselves.

Can team members ask employees at stores (hobby shop, lumber yard, etc.) for help, including cutting wood?

It depends on the kind of help they ask for. Teams can ask employees to describe what an item can be used for or to describe the different characteristics of several versions of the same thing, such as uses of different kinds of glue or different kinds of paint. Teams should not ask a store employee to recommend something to do a particular job in the team’s solution; that would be outside assistance. It is the team’s responsibility (and right) to choose exactly what they want to use in their solution.

In regards to wood, if the team determines the exact cuts, then it is okay to have a store employee make those same cuts for the team that anyone else could request. However, if the store charges an extra fee for those cuts, that fee must be included on the Cost form. There is a fine line between generic cuts and having the store employee help produce your set. The team could consider sending a clarification request with the dimensions to CCI if still unsure.

Can coaches or parents watch their own team’s spontaneous performance?

No. This is a rule from the international Odyssey of the Mind organization. It applies at every approved tournament. This is not a rule that Regional Directors or State Association Directors can change.

Can parents of Primary team students be in the performance?

No. Only the team members may be in the performance, and only the team members may design the team’s solution. This is true in Primary just like in divisional problems.

What can parents of Primary team students watch?

Primary parents may watch the team’s long-term performance. No one outside of the team is allowed to view the Spontaneous peformance.

The Primary team’s problem has specific points for each of the scored elements, yet at the tournament, they are not given a score based on that. Why is that?

As in the competitive divisions, points associated with Primary long-term elements help the team to understand the relative importance of each item. The judges will give feedback in the form of comments so that the team learns how well its solution satisfied the spirit of the problem. We do not provide numeric scores to the Primary teams because this is not a competitive division and teams (and parents) should not be comparing performances looking for “who did best.” All registered team members will be recognized at the conclusion of their team’s performance with positive reinforcement.

Do Primary teams go to the State Tournament?

No. Primary teams participate only in the Regional Tournament.

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