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Long-Term Problem

Each membership packet includes five competitive long-term problems, whose subject matter varies from the technical to the artistic to the classical. Teams choose the problem they wish to solve and create a solution to present in competition against other teams in the same grade range. Long-term problems require teams to begin preparing their solutions weeks or months before competition. Each problem includes one or more objectives, a set of limitations and requirements, and specific scoring categories. The problems offered are different each year, and the requirements and limitations change.

Types of problems

  • Problem 1: Vehicle – Teams design, build and operate one or more vehicles. Sometimes they’re small, other times they’re big enough to ride on and transport other items. Generally the vehicles are scored on their propulsion system, and for traveling and completing different tasks.
  • Problem 2: Technical/Performance – Teams are scored for performance elements as well as for some type of technical achievement. Usually, this problem requires the team to create one or more devices that perform certain functions or tasks.
  • Problem 3: Classics – This is a performance problem based on something “classical.” It could involve mythology, art, music, archaeology, or anything else that is classical in nature.
  • Problem 4: Structure – Teams design and build a structure out of only balsa wood and glue. They test the structure by adding Olympic-size weights until it breaks. Each year there is an element of the problem that sets it apart from other years, for example, having the structure endure the impact of a ball propelled down a ramp.
  • Problem 5: Performance – This is strictly a performance problem, where scoring is based mostly on the performance and elements within the performance. It sometimes requires a specific character, sometimes humor, sometimes an original story, but it’s always fun!
  • Primary problem (grades K-2): This problem's intent is to introduce younger children to the creative problem-solving process. To prepare students for Odyssey of the Mind competitions, the format of the primary problem is very similar to that of the competitive long-term problems — complete with examples of scoring and Style categories. Although there is no competition at the primary level, teams may be invited to display their solutions at an official tournament. This is a decision of the individual Tournament Director.

Long-Term Scoring

The team earning the highest score for each long-term problem and division in a competition is awarded 200 points unless the problem states otherwise. Style is scored separately out of 50 points. Every other team receives a percentage of 200 based on its raw score in relation to the highest raw score. Any penalty points are deducted after scores are calculated. No team will receive a score below zero for its long-term score. For a fuller description, see scoring.

Framing the problem

How a problem is stated can often influence the success of a team in solving it. Coaches should learn to state a question in a way that allows for many possible solutions. Essentially, coaches never want to ask “how can you build a doghouse?”, but, rather, they should want to ask “how can you find a better way to have a place for a dog to live?” Coaches must be careful, however, of two things: in restating the question, they must not lead the team towards a solution THEY have thought of (outside assistance); and in restating the question, they keep the original objective as a goal. (Designing something for “an animal” would not result, necessarily, in something for a dog!)

Suggestions for approaching the problem

Each coach and each team will have their own approach, and these are only intended as a springboard for team's individual methods of working. Also, spontaneous problems should be practiced all year - don't just prepare early in the season or right before the tournament!

Stage 1: understand the problem

The whole team reads Section A of the Long-Term Problem out loud. Discuss what this problem is all about. What does the problem say are the areas where creativity is emphasized? What does the problem say are the general goals? The team should discuss and brainstorm their initial reactions and ideas … and perhaps write them down. (For Division 1 and Primary, coaches may write down the team’s ideas, but they must be the team's exact words!)

Have the team read Section B. Take lots of time with this one … it is the “meat” of the problem. Ask some questions that promote divergent thinking and many possible solutions.

  • Note that 8 minutes includes set-up time.
  • Note the cost limit, and discuss the Cost Form.
  • Talk about all the limitations for your particular problem – how many, what minimum, how measured, what type, etc. of things are required.
  • What can the team do or not do?
  • Where can the team stand or not stand?
  • What forms does the team need to give the Staging Area Judge?

At the team's next meeting (after a lot of discussion of Sections A and B), the team should read Section F, Style. Talk about how style fits into the Long-Term solution, and what style IS. Brainstorm style a little bit, and ask if the team has any ideas for the free choice elements or whether they want to see what develops! Don't forget that all talk and no play makes for dull Odyssey meetings — spontaneous practices are great to add at this point, when there is time and coaches are trying to build teamwork and have fun!

Next, the team should read section C and talk about how the set-up fits in with Section B, Limitations. Read Sections D and E, Scoring and Penalties. Talk about scores as feedback, and about budgeting time according to what is scored. Talk about how the team might divide into sub-groups … and whether they wish to do so. Examine penalties and how to avoid them.

Stage 2: brainstorm and research

Now the team should have a pretty good grasp of what is expected and what their ideas for a problem solution are. Some next steps might be for the TEAM (not the coach) to:

  • Do research into subjects related to the Long-Term Solution
  • Examine how things work that might relate to an item they want to make or build (hinges, motors, one-way gears, PVC, etc)
  • Build models of items they plan to make. Prototypes quickly show the viability of ideas, and make team discussion much richer.
  • Learn the skills they need to work on the solution (the coach should not steer the team to any solution by suggesting certain skills to learn).
  • Go to craft, home supply or hobby stores and investigate what materials are available.
  • Experiment with materials.
  • Decide who is working on what parts of the solution.
  • Begin outlining the performance or script. Google Docs are a great way to collaboratively write a skit as they allow for simultaneous editing and easy viewing of previous versions.

If at any time the team is confused about the wording of the problem or the “legality” of their solution, the team should submit a clarification.

The skills fair is an event hosted by NCOME every year in late fall which teaches basic skills like sewing, woodworking, and gluing to aid kids in solving their long term problem.

Stage 3: create

After thoroughly understanding the problem and experimenting with different solutions, the team should begin building their props, costumes, technical devices, and writing the script. Keep in mind that the script and theme usually develop as time passes, so teams should not jump the gun and build an intricate prop only to have a theme development make that prop not fit into their current solution. Parents must be careful at this time not to give any outside assistance!

For older and more experienced teams, dividing up workload and having team members take responsibility for different areas of the solution often makes for a more efficient use of time. Team meetings can then be used as feedback sessions instead of group building time. For example, one team member would write the skit based on an agreed-upon theme. They would then bring a draft to the team meeting where the whole team would read it together and offer feedback.

Many teams wait until just a few weeks before regional tournament to start building because of a desire to continue brainstorming and finding the “perfect” solution. However, it is usually better to build prototypes and experiment with actual props rather than wait this long. Starting this phase by December or January will give the team time to go through improvements while constructing their ideas. See the suggested timeline article for more details.

Stage 4: practice

Run-throughs are absolutely necessary to both perform well at competition and refine the skit. Oftentimes teams will realize that an idea that looked amazing on the drawing board doesn't translate during a run-through. Teams should record themselves as they practice (coaches can help with this task) to view their stage presence, blocking, and if the humor of the skit makes sense.

Continue to refine and revise as competition grows nearer. Which mechanisms work? What can add more consistency? Does the proposed solution still fit the problem? Are all the scoring elements covered? Have clarifications impacted the developing solution?

A major goal 2-3 weeks before competition is making sure the performance is under 8 minutes. Celebrate major accomplishments as they happen (vehicle completed all runs, the tasks were completed, everyone remembered their lines). In addition, plan for technical failures - what happens in the skit if the backdrop doesn't transition or the vehicle won't move?

The team should practice moving props and set from a staging area to the performance area. To simulate the competition site, put at least 10 feet between the staging and performance areas. Remember that 8 minutes of performance time includes moving from staging to performance. Teams will generally not know the exact layout of the performance are until competition.

Coaches could simulate the role of the timekeeper before the performance:

  • Judge: “Welcome to this years OM tournament.”
  • Judge: “We are proud to present the team from School [ABC]. Team, are you ready?!”
  • Team: <team's starting signal>
  • Judge: “Team, you may begin!” (Start 8 minute stopwatch)
  • Team: <moves from staging to performance area and performs skit>
  • Team: shouts “Time!” (or whatever signal they choose to end the skit.)

Stage 5: compete

Bring all that hard work together and wow the judges! For a full description of what to expect, see preparing for the tournament and tournament day.

Examples of problem solutions

Below are performances by teams organized into problem and division. Watching other teams' solutions is a great idea for new team's to understand how a tournament performance works and the level of competition. However, many of these teams come from established programs or have competed for several years, so don't feel intimidated by there solution if coming from a new program.

long_term/start.txt · Last modified: 2015/07/07 05:13 by michaelb