Odyssey of the Mind is not just about competing and problem-solving – it is about friendship and family. During competition, OotM encourages camaraderie between teams. At Odyssey events consideration is always taken to allow space and opportunity for new friendships and cultural exchange. And through our volunteer structure, many families become part of the program and get involved in their communities. As more and more generations become involved in the program, we see new families forming with Odyssey of the Mind as the bond. This approach to business stems from the grassroots beginning of the program, which continues to be a small, family-owned business.
The Odyssey of the Mind was born out of the innovative teachings of its founder, Dr. C. Samuel Micklus. During the 1970’s at Rowan University in New Jersey, Dr. Micklus (Dr. Sam to OMers) challenged his Industrial Design students to use their creativity to solve unique problems like building a vehicle without wheels, designing and testing a mechanical pie thrower, and making a flotation device that transported them safely across a lake.
He created a course entitled Creative Problem Solving long before it was accepted as a valuable aspect of education. Word spread and the students’ intriguing solutions attracted attention from the local media.
OM and beyond
From there, teachers and students found what they were missing in the classroom in those activities and asked to be included in Dr. Sam’s challenges. In 1978 Dr. Micklus created problems for middle and high schools in New Jersey. This competition was the first ever of its kind and Olympics of the Mind (OM) was born. As a result of popular demand, Creative Competitions, Inc. (CCI) was formed to produce and administer the program.
It was in 1980 when the first teams from outside of New Jersey, including the first international teams -coming from Canada – participated. This was the first World Finals. In 1982 CCI helped organize local not-for-profit associations to administer the program for the schools and teams in their respective state/country.
Soon after,the name of the program was appropriately changed to Odyssey of the Mind, representing the journey of discovery participants take while using their creativity and natural abilities to solve the program’s challenging problems. Today, there are associations all around the world serving thousands of schools participating in Odyssey of the Mind. Teams represent nearly every state in the US and approximately 25 other countries.
World Finals now includes teams from as far away as China, Germany, Mexico, India – as well as Canada’s continued presence! Twenty thousand people travel to World Finals – teams, parents, coaches and volunteers; proving that creative thinking is universal and that OotM is the positive force that brings them together.
Today’s Odyssey of the Mind still serves the needs of students as it did in its beginning. Teammates continue to come together in a way where new friends are made and knowledge is shared and respected. Most of all, participants continue to learn how to solve problems they will face in the future. Odyssey of the Mind is truly a giant, creative world-wide family!
Dr. Sam and his son, along with a small group of experienced educators and leaders in various fields of study continue to write the problems that have defined the program for over 35 years. While teaching philosophies and the world around us changes, Odyssey of the Mind has consistently created challenging and fulfilling problems in a fun and friendly environment. It continues to believe that creativity can be taught and that education should be fun!