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Odyssey of the Mind judges are an integral part of any tournament. Organizers strive to provide teams with the best possible competition conditions. Most tournaments require judges to attend a training session and pass a certification test in long-term or spontaneous.

Judging positions

Head Judge

(One per long-term judging team and one per spontaneous judging team)

The Head Judge for Long-Term or Spontaneous is the leader of the judging team. The Head Judge must keep the judging team on time and on task.

  • Long-Term: The Head Judge reviews scoresheets, compiles scores and prepares the master scoresheet. He/she presents the scores to the team coaches and answers questions regarding the teams' long-term scores. Should a coach raise an issue that the Head Judge cannot settle, the Head Judge then contacts the Problem Captain and has the Problem Captain take over. The Head Judge must be thoroughly familiar with the long-term problem and have the ability to handle people in a friendly, but firm, manner. The long-term Head Judge sometimes doubles as a Problem or Style Judge, but this does not allow very much time to return scores and talk with coaches, so in this event the tournament organizer may wish to schedule teams a little farther apart or allow longer breaks.
  • Spontaneous: The Head Judge reviews the scoresheets to make sure the judges have filled them out correctly and, in verbal problems, that all the judges have recorded the same number of responses. The Head Judge compiles the scores and prepares the Master Scoresheet. The Head Judge designates who reads the problem to the teams, who checks that the correct team entered the room, and who “chats” with the team. The spontaneous Head Judge always scores the teams as well.

Problem Judge

(Generally two or three per long-term judging team and one per spontaneous judging team)

  • Long-Term: The Problem Judge scores the team's long-term solution. In a performance problem this is generally a subjective opinion and the Problem Judge generally scores all aspects of the solution except Style. In a technical problem the Problem Judge is usually assigned a specific area or task to observe and scores only that portion of the team's solution. The Problem Judge gives his/her scoresheet to the Head Judge to compile onto the Master Scoresheet.
  • Spontaneous: In verbal problems, the Problem Judge evaluates the team's answers and interrupts the team if it repeats answers or gives inappropriate responses. In a hands-on problem, the Problem Judge generally scores some specific aspect of the problem.


(One per long-term judging team and possibly one for every 4-5 spontaneous rooms)

This is an optional position, but if enough volunteers are available scorechecker should be assigned to every long-term judging team. This individual collects scoresheets from the scoring judges and reviews them before sending them off to the Scoreroom. The Scorechecker makes sure the judges score within the appropriate range for subjective categories and award the correct number of points for objective categories. In spontaneous, a Score Compiler would be stationed in the Spontaneous Judges' Break Room and check scores before they are sent to the Score Room.

Staging Area Judge

(One or possibly two per long-term judging team)

The Staging Area Judge is the first official to greet the team in Long-Term. He/she puts the team at ease while reviewing the team's paperwork. The Staging Area Judge forwards the paperwork to the appropriate long-term judges and inspects the team's props, membership sign, etc. He/she evaluates the cost, the legality of the solution (if there are specific parameters), and whether items were made by the team members. The Staging Area Judge may ask the team members some basic questions in this regard but should pass along any concerns he/she has to the other judges for questioning after the team finishes its performance. The Staging Area Judge generally introduces the team to the Timekeeper. Sometimes the Staging Area Judge also serves as Timekeeper. If you are fortunate to have enough judges to have two Staging Area Judges, one can handle the paperwork while the other talks with the team, answers questions, and generally makes certain the team is at ease. This is helpful if your tournament is on a tight schedule.

Style Judge

(Two or three per long-term judging team)

Style Judges receive the teams' Style Forms from the Staging Area Judge and review them for accuracy and to learn which areas they are to score. The Style Judge scores these areas and gives the scored Style Form to the Head Judge for compilation onto the Master Style Form. Style Judges do not confer with each other to determine scores. Style Judges sometimes also serve as Problem Judges.


(One per long-term judging team and one per spontaneous team)

The Timekeeper is responsible for giving each team the exact amount of time allowed for the problem. It is critical that the Timekeeper be precise and exact in this regard.

  • Long-Term: The Timekeeper introduces the team to the judges and the audience. In problems where a penalty for overtime is given, he/she keeps exact time of the presentation and assesses a penalty for teams that go overtime. In other problems he/she stops the team at the end of the 8 minutes.
  • Spontaneous: The Timekeeper reviews the various times that will be given, e.g. think time, practice time, response time, and clearly tells each team when to begin and end each timed portion. The spontaneous Timekeeper often serves as a Spontaneous Problem Judge as well.

Weigh-In Judge

(One or two for the long-term structure problem, Geometry Structure)

Weigh-In Judges check that structures meet the height and weight requirements and fulfill any other requirements for the problem. If a separate weigh-in site is used, once the Weigh-In Judges finalize their check of the structures and either approve them or assess appropriate penalties, they retain the structures in a container until approximately 25 minutes before the team is scheduled to compete. Weigh-In Judges must be available at least one hour before the first team is scheduled to compete until 15 minutes before the last team for the day competes. In a small competition, the Weigh-In Judge may also serve as a Problem Judge.


(One per long-term problem site, unless the space is open with no entrance or exit door)

Doorkeepers make certain that audience members do not enter during a team's performance. They also make certain that spectators give right-of-way to teams entering and exiting, help with crowd control, answers questions outside the door (such as “which problem is this?” or “where are the restrooms?” or “is this site on schedule?”) Doorkeepers should, ideally, be certified officials, as they are substitute officials the day of the tournament, if someone is ill or does not show up to judge.

World Finals judging

World Finals judging is some of the most exciting as the world's best teams are presenting, a fun community of world finals officials exists, and judges have the chance to partake in fun activities like pin trading or the float and banner parade.

Although World Finals organizers recognize that certification is not required to perform the duties of some of the positions, because of the extensive commitment that must be made in advance, they require certified judges for all members of a long-term or spontaneous judging team. This assures that, should someone drop out at the last minute, organizers have an ample number of judges already committed to World Finals who can competently fill any judging position. Organizers sometimes have to make changes in assignments right up to the first day of competition. World Finals is a hectic time, but there are many rewards. Every position is important and must be filled.

It is also important that organizers offer an opportunity to people who have never before judged at the World Finals. As those folks who have judged at World Finals in the past know, the experience is extremely valuable and helps these judges provide a lot of help to their local associations. Organizers will use many experienced World Finals judges since their goal is to make sure the teams have the best possible experience. However, organizers will include at least one judge new to World Finals on each long-term judging team and five to the spontaneous judging pool, so some folks who judged many times in the past may be asked to stand down this year in order to give other folks a chance to bring the World Finals judging experience back to their associations. Organizers will also consider geographical location when selecting judges.

Judging FAQ

Q: Help! I’ve been dragged into . . . I mean I cheerfully volunteered for this Odyssey of the Mind, but I don’t know the first thing about it. What do I need to be a judge? A: The only things you need to be judge for Odyssey of the Mind are: an open mind, a friendly smile, and two free days

Q: Why two days? A: One day is for Judges’ Training and the other competition day.

Q: Ok, so what is Odyssey? A: It is a creative problem solving competition for students in Elementary through College-age. Team members have been practicing their spontaneous problem solving skills, and will have a chance show off those skills in the spontaneous portion of the competition. The emphasis of Odyssey is on teaching and encouraging creativity. Odyssey of the Mind strives to provide a fun and enjoyable opportunity for kids to develop, express, and be rewarded for their creative sides. The farther out of the box they can get the better! Check out the Odyssey of the Mind article for more info!

Q: What if I can’t make one of the days? A: Contact your Judge Coordinator and the coach of team you are representing immediately! In most regions/states, every competing team must supply at least one judge for the tournament. If they don’t, that team is not officially scored and is therefore ineligible to advance to state competition. So, as soon as you find out you can’t make either training or the tournament, let us know. The coach of the team you are representing needs to find a replacement for you. You cannot function as a judge without having gone through training.

Q: I’m doing this through my company and if I’m representing a specific team, I don’t know which one it is. How do I find out? A: We need more judges than we get by asking for just one judge per competing team, so we rely on people like you to fill in the ranks. Therefore you may not be representing a specific team. If in your case you discover you can’t make it to training or to the competition, just contact the judges’ coordinator as soon as possible. It would be greatly appreciated if you could find somebody who could replace you.

Q: I had asked to Judge the problem my kid/niece/nephew/student/etc is competing in so I could see them perform but you didn’t assign me to that problem. What gives? A: To avoid as much conflict of interest as we can, we never assign somebody to judge the same problem as the team that their children are competing in.

Q: I would like to see a specific team perform. Will I be able to? A: Probably not. As a judge, you will be busy the entire day judging the problem you’ve been assigned to. You need to be there for the entire competition. Much of the judging you will be doing is subjective in nature and therefore consistency in the judging team is essential to provide a fair assessment of the teams’ solutions. If a judge were to leave in the middle of the tournament (due to illness for instance) we would have to go back and remove that judge’s scores from all of the teams that had competed so far that day. Needless to say, this not only changes teams’ placements, but gives the score room the vapors.

Q: How many teams will I be judging? A: It depends on what problem and division you are assigned to. Typically you will give feedback to between 10 and 20 teams.

Q: When do I find out my judging role (position)? A: At judges’ training. You and the rest of your judging team will have an opportunity to discuss the various positions, and then you and your head judge will decide who will fill which positions.

Q: Which division is the most fun to judge? A: All of them! (Did you really expect any other answer??) Each division has it’s own charms. The younger children tend to be less inhibited, to think farther out of the box, and to be more creative. The older children tend to have more complex and polished solutions. This doesn’t mean that a Div III team can’t be outstandingly creative or that a Div I team can’t come up with an amazingly complex solution; in Odyssey you learn to expect the unexpected. No matter what division you are judging, you will be amazed at the wide variety of solutions you see. If you come into it with an open mind, you will have a great deal of fun.

judging.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/31 20:27 by michaelb