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The Spontaneous portion of the competition requires that the team solve a problem they have never seen before, in secret, before a team of judges.  Too often neglected, when props need to be painted or a script needs to be polished, spontaneous is a crucial element of Odyssey of the Mind. It is important not only because it is scored at the tournament but also because it teaches the team many of the skills needed for problem solving. Above all it is FUN!


Spontaneous is the essence of teamwork, creativity, risk-taking, and divergent thinking in Odyssey of the Mind. 

Note: This video was made just before a rule change that now expects the whole team to compete.

Teams do not know beforehand what specific problem they will face. The possibilities include:

  • Verbal problems – This will be a problem where the team might be asked to give a series of verbal responses that will be scored as common or creative. They might be asked something like “State the best thing or worst thing about being the size of an ant”, or the team might be given a set of weird animal pictures and asked to “Say something about the animal or what the animal might say”. 

  • Verbal Hands-on problems - This will be a problem, usually with two parts, that is read to the team one part at a time. In Part 1, they may be asked to make or build something. In Part 2, they may be asked to give verbal responses about what they have made or use the item(s) in a skit.

  • Hands-on problems - This will be a problem where they will be asked to do something with a set of given materials. Hands-on problems might ask the team to build something, create a picture of some kind, get objects into a target area, arrange elements in a certain order and so forth. 

IMPORTANT: The entire team enters the spontaneous room and solves the problem. For verbal and verbal/hands-on problems the required number of responses from the team will be represented by a number of tokens, scattered randomly on the table. Individual team members will place one of the tokens in a container when they give a response. Each team member may give as many, or as few, responses using the teams' allocation of tokens.


On competition day, after signing in at the Spontaneous Desk, the team members and their coach wait in a Holding Room until an official escorts the team to their spontaneous competition room. The team then will have a brief period to solve the problem given. The coach does not go with the team into the spontaneous room.

When the problem is completed, an official will escort the team back to their coach. The team may NOT discuss the problem with anyone, not even each other, until after World Finals so that no other teams could get advance knowledge of the problem in this or other tournaments. 

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