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Understanding the Problem

The Structure of each Long-Term Problem

A. The Problem

Overview of what the problem is all about

Summary of what a team needs to solve the problem

Creative emphasis of problem


Spirit of the Problem

What the solution must have!

Items here may not be scored but must be included in the solution

Example: One year in Problem 1 it stated in the Spirit of the Problems that the OMER character  was supposed to be in costume, although it was not scored, or listed as a required element in the problem. If this was missed, and OMER did not wear a costume – then teams received a Spirit of the Problem penalty.


B. Limitations

General Rules

Clarification information

Time Limit      8 mins

                        P3 and P5 are allowed to go to 9 minutes before the team must stop but this comes with penalty points

Cost Limit       Varies by problem

                        Important to refer to Program Guide 

Required Elements - must be included in the solution

setting or theme



actions/special effects

artistic elements/presentations (dance, song, artwork)

style elements

use of Arm and Hammer baking soda (this year in Problem 5)

C. Site Setup and Competition

Minimum performance space - May be larger, floor surface depends on venue

Site setup diagram - a suggestion, may change (e.g. enter from left or right, location of audience) depending on venue

- best to check with Tournament Director.

D. Scoring

Objective - 0 or 5/10. Did something happen?

Subjective 1/2/3 to 5/10/15/20/30

Point ranges - may get 0 if an item is not presented during the performance (e.g. ran out of time)

Remember ... something in the Spirit of the Problem may not be in this list!

E. Penalties

Teams that don't present a scored element of the problem, will not receive a penalty, rather they will receive a zero score for that category.

F. Style

2 Required elements - teams must do these.

2 "Free Choice of Team"- these cannot be items that are scored elsewhere in Section D. An aspect of an item scored elsewhere can be chosen. i.e the artistic appearance of an item that is being scored elsewhere for its design and construction, can be chosen, provided this is clearly distinct from its design.

Overall effect of four style elements, the degree to which they are integrated together and with the overall solution.

Check out our videos about Style.

G. Tournament Director Will Provide

If you have any questions about tournament venue - contact the tournament director.

Reading the problem – the importance of words


When reading a problem, you'll often see the terms must/will, may, and may not. These small words are key to solving the Problem! Have your team read the long-term problem and highlight each time these words appear.


This means: The team is required to include this element. 
Example: The solution must take place in the future. 
Solution: The solution has to occur in the future or the team will receive zero points for that scoring element or a Spirit of the Problem penalty if it is not a specifically scored item.


This means: The team can choose to include or not include this item. 
Example: The team may use pre-recorded sound effects or live sound effects. 
Solution: The team may decide whether or not to use either pre-recorded sound effects, live sound effects, or both! All are acceptable solutions.

May Not/Cannot

This means: The team is not permitted to use or do this. 
Example: The team may not use electrical power during the performance. 
Solution: The solution cannot contain any electrical power or your team will receive zero points for that scoring element or a Spirit of the Problem penalty if it is not a specifically scored item.


Reading the Problem - Odyssey Vocabulary

When reading a Problem, you'll often see that elements are scored in areas such as Creativity/Originality, Effectiveness, and Teamwork. Here's how to work out what they mean:


This means: The item should be innovative, novel, and unique. 
How to optimize the score: This item should make you go, "Aha! Wow!" Unrelated items should be synthesized to create a new idea.


This means: The element should be a vital, crucial part of your solution. 
How to optimize the score: The element should be vitally important to the solution and the presentation would be less successful if the element was gone.


This means: The team is effective, efficient, and collaborative. 
How to optimize the score: Leadership and team roles should be easily identifiable, and diversity of skills should be evident.

Functional engineering

This means: Is the device functional, effective, efficient, and reliable? 
How it's scored: The team's device will earn higher marks if it operates as your team intended it to, if it is designed to adequately solve its task, if all of the device's pieces have a meaningful purpose, and if it works every time it is used. If your team's device fails during the Presentation, the scores for this area may be impacted.


This means: Does the device use a new, unique, original, or creative manner to carry out or accomplish a task?
How it's scored: The team's device will earn higher marks if it is designed in an innovative manner or if it uses out-of-the-box methods to complete its desired task. If the team's device fails during the Presentation, your scores for this area may be slightly impacted, but your scores will be based more so on the device's core concept as opposed to its reliability.


This means: Completely made / thought of by the team

How it's scored: A vehicle propulsion system would be scored higher if completely created by the team from scratch, it would scored less if using commercially available parts, a store-bought entire system/vehicle would not be allowed. Original characters would need to be somebody that does not exist now or in the past. Original music can be an original composition, or an exiting arrangement performed in an original way.

Italicized Words

Certain words in problem are italicized.

This means they are described in the Problem Glossary (last page of the problem) or, more generally, in Chapter 6 of the Program Guide

Common Misunderstandings

Prop - An object held or used by a character in the performance. Props do not include items that are picked up only as part of a team’s setup or to change the scene. Hand props are held by a character in the performance and larger stage props, such as a ladder or chair, are used by a character in the performance. For example, if a character answers a telephone and sits in a chair, the telephone and chair are props. A prop may also be a part of a costume. For example, if a character walks on stage holding a sword and uses it as part of the performance, the sword is a prop as well as part of that costume. Props do not include required vehicles, structures, devices, etc. that only operate and/or perform a function for required score.


Tangible - This is not defined in any of the problem glossaries or the problem guide but is frequently mentioned. Tangible is from Latin tangere, "to touch," and it simply means something that can be touched or felt, though it can be used in metaphorical senses: tangible grief can be clearly sensed by an onlooker. So you might not need to physically touch something for it to be tangible, but it has to be grounded in the real world of facts. If your team has questions about whether a component of its solution is "tangible" they should submit a team clarification.

Self-contained - every aspect of a required component is independent of anything external. For example, if a self-contained item must travel, all parts of the item will travel. Using a rope anchored off the vehicle that then winches the is not self-contained, as it is off the vehicle. If a team uses AC power, the cord providing the energy is allowed to remain plugged in and does not need to move as part of the solution. The cord does not count towards score.

There are lots more terms that have a specific Odyssey meaning - go check the Program Guide!


The Program Guide

What you NEED to know!

Applies to ALL Problems.

Remember.. each Problem has its own set of 'rules'. These supersede the rules in the Program Guide


BUT... Clarifications overrule both of these.

Cost Form

Everything has a value.


How about trash and exempt items?


What is exempt?

What are assigned values, garage sale prices?

How about things in an Odyssey closet, reused from last year, or rented for the day.


Program Guide Changes for 2022-2023 season.


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