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Odyssey of the Mind program

What is Odyssey of the Mind?

Odyssey of the Mind (OM™) teaches students how to develop and use their natural creativity to become problem-solvers and collaborators. Imagine being faced with a problem that requires a completely original solution. It can be frightening. Now imagine not being afraid to solve that problem – that is what OM members learn! This skill and self-confidence will carry over to all areas of their lives. OM brings the classroom to life as students apply what they learn and combine it with their interests and passions to solve our unique open-ended problems. OM also emphasizes teamwork, budgeting, time management, public speaking, and so much more. This international program is designed to help students at all learning levels grow as individual learners, grow as team members, and to reach their full potential.

Each year, OM headquarters will release five “Long Term Problems” for 3rd graders - University level students and one “Primary” level problem for PreK – 2nd grade students. The Primary level teams are non-competitive; however, the upper grades can start competing in the 3rd grade. Each competitive team will solve a “Long Term Problem” in one of these categories: 1. Vehicle, 2. Technical, 3. Classics, 4. Structure, and 5. Performing Arts as well as a “Spontaneous” challenge on the day of competition. Even though each of the long-term problems have a specific focus, they all require a combination of technical skill as well as performance elements.

Ok, this all sounds great but how is OM different from other academic competitions?

Odyssey of the Mind is unique in that it is 100% student-driven. In fact, a team can be penalized or disqualified if they use “Outside Assistance” when solving their problem. Adults cannot interfere in any way (other than to keep the team members safe and focused!) For example, if a team is constructing something for their solution and needs to use a drill, an adult can teach them HOW to use a drill on another piece of scrap wood. The student can then use that skill to construct their project completely on their own or with other team members. It is amazing to watch what these kids can do with a little knowledge and a little self-confidence!

How much does it cost?

The RSU5 OM program aims to cover all registration fees for participating students through the Maine State Tournament. Each problem has a required cap on spending at $125.00-$145.00 to cover the cost of any building materials. On the day of the competition, each team must submit an itemized budget and receipts to verify that their solution did not go over budget. If a team wins at the State competition, they will be invited to World Finals. World Finals is a 5-day international competition that is held in the US and is something like the academic Olympics. Teams that are awarded this honor usually spend several months fundraising for this trip and will have lots of help from all other OM teams in the district.

This sounds like a lot of fun! How can I get involved??

You are right! OM is a ton of fun for coaches AND students. We always have interested students but what we really need are coaches! All you need to be a coach is a love of the creative/scientific process and a lot of patience. The good news is that there is a great community of coaches and mentors here in Maine and we love to help each other through the process. So, even if you have no prior experience with the program, that is no problem!

Who are the RSU5 OM Coordinators and how do I contact them?

David and Mary McLellan are the RSU5 OM coordinators and can be reached at and . They have two children that go to DCS and are very active members of their Odyssey of the Mind teams! Mary was an OMer when she was in 4th and 5th grade and loved it so much that she started coaching with a Primary team when her daughter was in the 2nd grade: 5 years ago! Dave started coaching at that time too and together, they have taken their teams to World Finals four years in a row. Mary and Dave both have backgrounds in the performing arts and Dave has been in Conservation Education, Theatre for Young Audiences, and Museum Educational Programming for several years as well. Currently, they both own the Bliss Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast in Durham. And of course, they are both current coaches for the DCS 5th grade OM team and the 7th grade OM team.

How can I learn more about the program?

You can visit the Odyssey of the Mind website here:

Thank you so much and we look forward to welcoming you into the OM family!


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