To maintain an equal playing field among teams, each problem has a cost limit. This is the maximum allowable total value of the items used in the team’s final problem solution at the competition. All materials used in the presentation of the team’s solution, except those that are exempt from cost, must be counted in this value (see assigned value and exempt below). The team must include an item’s value even if it is borrowed or donated; however, items may be valued at “garage sale“ prices. This is a used, or second-hand, price. Items purchased new must be listed at full price, and the team should retain the receipt.
If the team uses only part of an item, for example, half a can of paint or a segment of a 2 x 4, the team is required to list the value of only the portion used. If a team exceeds the cost limit, it will be penalized. If a team fails to list any of its items on the cost form, the staging area judge will allow them to add the value of those items. If adding the value puts them over the cost limit, judges will assess a penalty.
Each team must give the staging area judge a copy of its completed cost form (electronic Excel copy, PDF) before it begins its long-term presentation. The value of materials used must be listed on the form in the currency used by the country where the competition is held. Cost limits are given in United States dollars. Associations will announce their official exchange rates no later than October 15 of that program year. If these are not published, non-USA teams must use the exchange rate for their country as of October 1 of the program year to determine material values.
The following items must be intact and used for their intended purpose. If they are decorated, the cost of the decorations will be in addition to the assigned value. The following list shows the categories of items and their assigned value.
Certain items are exempt from being counted in the cost as long as they remain intact and are used for their intended purpose. These are items considered accessible to all teams without a cost associated with them. They are limited to the following items. Anything not listed below that is used in the presentation of the team’s solution must be shown on the Cost Form.
Note: Items such as storage bins, casters, or dollies may be used to move props from the Staging Area to the competition site, as long as they are not used in the presentation. They must be removed immediately after the item they are moving is placed in the competition area. If they are not, their cost will count in the problem solution.
Tools used as intended to build and/or repair any part of the solution that do not enhance the performance are exempt from cost. For example, a screwdriver used to repair a prop is exempt unless the appearance of the screwdriver and/or the way the screwdriver is used enhances the performance. The tool kit must be in the Staging Area when time begins and may be used on the competition site for setting up the performance or for repairs. If, at any time, their appearance or the way they are used positively impacts the performance they are no longer exempt and the team will receive a Spirit of the Problem penalty. The materials that the team might need will vary depending on what they have built. Ideas of things to include are hot glue guns + glue sticks, duct tape, screwdrivers, pliers, utility knives, scissors, colored markers or pens, spare batteries, and fasteners.
The following safety items are exempt from cost:
The cost limit in Odyssey of the Mind not only levels the playing field between programs, but it also forces participants to use their creativity in thinking of solutions using scarce and alternate resources. However, this requirement definitely poises a challenge for many teams, especially in the vehicle and technical problems.