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World Finals

World Finals is a creative extravaganza where more than 850 teams from all around the world share their ideas and work. While only a few left leave with a trophy, everyone comes out a winner just by solving an Odyssey of the Mind problem and competing on the world stage. World Finals have in recent years alternated between Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI and University of Maryland in College Park, MD.

More than 400 volunteers and officials and numerous campus staff members will be on site to provide teams the best possible experience. Teams should know that officials will be wearing red shirts with the World Finals logo on the front and the word “OFFICIAL” printed on the back. The University staff will be posted throughout campus to help give directions and answer questions.

To see a past year's WF information as an example, visit Especially check out the FAQ page:

Qualifying for World Finals

In most situations, teams first compete at the regional level. Those who place at this level advance to Association Finals at the state/province/country level, according to qualification criteria set by the individual association. Teams that place (usually at least 2nd or higher) are eligible to compete in the annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.

Teams in areas that do not provide official competitions before World Finals may apply to go directly to World Finals and are approved on a first-come, first-served basis. These teams must apply to CCI by April 1 of the program year to be eligible. They may also be allowed to participate in a neighboring state’s official competitions, with champions being selected from each state represented. If the team wishes to do this, they must contact the Association Director of the neighboring state to learn the details. Contact your Tournament Director for specifics regarding the competition. In most cases teams will be mailed or emailed this information after they register or qualify.


Most teams must fundraise to cover the cost of attending World Finals. Treat fundraising as another creative problem solving opportunity – raising funds to make the trip. There are many ways that a team can fund a trip to World Finals. If the team has’t been funded through their state budget, or they haven’t convinced their School Board to sponsor them team, it’s up to them to raise the funds. Here are some ideas that have worked for other teams, but make sure clear these ideas with school administration:

  • Sell ice cream or snacks in the lunchroom each day. 
  • Sell bottled water or juice after school for students staying for an activity. 
  • Present your team’s solution at a civic club and ask for donations from the organization. 
  • Sponsor a spaghetti supper (have students throughout the school bring in ingredients), and for entertainment have the team perform its long-term solution. 
  • Sponsor a “Hat Day.” For $1, students will be allowed to wear a hat all day at school. 
  • Put a teacher in jail. Recruit several teachers who would be willing to be put in jail for a day (choose the most popular teachers). For a fee let the students vote on which teacher they would most like to put in jail. The teacher chosen will be placed in a cell (creatively made by the Odyssey of the Mind team) for the day and the students will be allowed to tease the teacher. With the cooperation of the principal, a substitute will cover that teacher’s classes. 
  • For a fee team members can paint faces at the school’s field day. 
  • Have a talent show. Open the auditions to anyone in the school, making sure the students show a talent and/or ability. This would involve one day for auditions, one day for a rehearsal and one day to present the show. Students will pay $1 to get out of class to come to the show. 
  • Sponsor a school dance and/or school fashion show and sell concessions. 
  • Make up commercials and perform them on the morning school announcements to promote the idea that on an upcoming Friday, anyone who brings $1 can have the Odyssey team take their spelling test for them and get the grade that the team member makes.

Teams can also raise money in their neighborhoods: 

  • Get the word out in the community. Refer to the News Release and PR tips included in this packet. The more publicity you can get – newspaper, TV, radio, etc., the more people will support the team. Then if you have a fundraiser, such as a barbecue at a local Fire Station, people will be more likely to support it. 
  • Write letters to local businesses asking for support. Use information about how Odyssey of the Mind fits into the corporate workplace to help businesses understand how they can benefit from sponsorship. If a team member or relative of a team member knows someone in the business, have that person sign the letter or write a personal letter to accompany the form letter. 
  • Appear at local functions selling Blow Pops to “blow them away” at World Finals. 
  • Sell hot dogs and soft drinks at a popular store on a Saturday.

Housing and travel

Teams are responsible for organizing their own method of travel and shipping of their props. Odyssey of the Mind usually provides a location to which teams may ship and temporally store their props. Teams with more than a two day drive often ship their props and fly, or one parent or coach will rent a trailer and truck and transport the props to competition.

Odyssey of the Mind offers housing packages for teams in the on-campus dorms. A dining hall is usually located near the team's housing location where meals are served. Regardless of whether a team stays in Odyssey of the Mind housing or organizes their own, the team must pay the World Finals registration fee to help cover the cost of renting the space, providing for judges and volunteers, and running other aspects of the competition.

Activities at World Finals

There are many many fun things to do at World Finals! There are three days of competition not including opening ceremonies day, so teams will have at least one day free. Coaches should balance the need to organize any last practices and repairs with the enjoyment of everything World Finals has to offer.

  • Creativity festival: The Creativity Festival is a place for attendees of all ages to have fun and forget about competition for a while. There will be many interesting interactive booths from associations across the U.S as well as a special booth created by NASA. While there, visit the Odyssey Angels booth and learn about Odyssey of the Mind's community service initiative. Also on display is the winning Odyssey Angels group and showing how it creatively helped its community. Check the Odyssey World Finals web site for other fun activities, updates, FAQs, and additional information.
  • Pin trading: Teams from all over the world come with pins representing their home state, region, province, or country. Team members, coaches, officials, and volunteers all trade pins. This activity is a great way to meet new people and develop friendship. Make sure to read the pin trading guidelines to get the most out of the experience.
  • Coaches competition: Every year coaches have the opportunity to compete against each other in a condensed version of a long term problem. Teams are encouraged to come watch and participate. See the 2015 problem here.
  • Float and banner parade: Teams and associations compete with floats or banners representing their organization.
  • Partnering with a buddy team. American and international teams are connected together as buddy teams, forming friendships and sharing different cultures in their time at World Finals.

Many other activities exist throughout the week! Check the current Odyssey of the Mind World Finals website for a complete list, including activities unique to each campus.

General tips for coaches

  • There is a coaches meeting on the day of the opening ceremonies (sometimes before, sometimes after) where important documents will be distributed and general and problem-specific questions will be answered. If there were any clarifications late in competition season, the head judge might review these clarifications. The meeting usually is on the longer side of an hour, but it's HIGHLY recommended that at least one coach attends (not any team members).
  • It is less expensive to stay in the dorms and subscribe to the meal plan than try to stay off campus.
  • The opening ceremony Wednesday night and the closing/award ceremony Saturday night are amazing! Don't miss these events.
  • Pin trading is a big deal. When the team is not performing or practicing, they will want to trade pins with other states and with teams from other countries. This memorabilia is the only real souvenir that most kids save and cherish from their WF experience. A collection of 20 to 30 strange and exotic pins arranged in a display on a light shade or in a display box will be a great remembrance of the event. Note that this means each child should have 20 - 30 of their home state/region pins to trade.
  • Many states offer support to their teams traveling to World Finals. Contact your state director for more information. You will always still have to fundraise some amount though unless your school covers the entirety of the expense.
  • There are a very few grants available for housing from Creative Opportunities Unlimited (COU) in support of low-resource teams. Contact your state director immediately upon qualifying for World Finals for more information.

Past competitions

Scores and information from past World Finals competitions can be viewed here.

world_finals.txt · Last modified: 2015/07/07 07:12 by michaelb