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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
|Problem 1||Problem 2||Problem 3||Problem 4||Problem 5|
|Div.I||Ooh-Motional Vehicle, Stamford Youth Foundation||Not So Haunted House, Rowlett Academy||ARTchitecture: The Musical, Howard Drive Elementary School||You Make the Call, Owen J Roberts Vincent Elementary School||Silent Movie, Jamwon Elementary School|
|Pet Project , Traut Core Knowledge Elementary||As Good as Goldberg, DeMiguel Elementary School||Le Tour Guide, Moon Elementary||Shock Waves, Horizon Elementary||Food Court, Anglo Chinese School|
|Div.II||Ooh-Motional Vehicle, Box of Light||The Email Must go Through, Fort Couch Middle School Team B||Le Tour Guide, South Charlotte Middle School||Lose Your Marbles, Rachel Carson Middle School Tm A||It's How You Look at It, Thornapple Kellogg Middle School|
|Drivers Test, Collingswood Rec||The Email Must go Through, Stillwater Creativity Team A||The Lost Labor of Heracles, Turner Middle School||Lose Your Marbles, CW Davis Middle School||It's How You Look at It, Carmel Middle School|
|Div.III||STFA Lee Shau Kee College, Ooh-Motional Vehicle||Not So Haunted House, North Penn HS||Le Tour Guide, Upper St. Clair||You Make the Call , Erie High School||Full Circle, Myers Park White|
|Osrodek Psychoedukacji Damb, Driver's Test||Gift of Flight, Quest Homeschoolers||It's How We Rule, STFA Lee Shau Kee College||Shock Waves , York Central School||Seeing is Believing, Evart High School|
|Div.IV||ARTchetecture the Musical, OSU||You Make the Call , St. Jose Ministries||Not So Haunted House, Anglo Chinese School|