Spontaneous Tips



1. Speak LOUDLY AND CLEARLY. If Judges can’t hear you they can’t hear your creativity.

2. You may usually not pass, so save one answer to give if you are stuck. If you get stuck again, SAY ALMOST ANYTHING! (Note: some problems have a “pass” card to allow you one pass, but it is still better not to use it and give up an opportunity for a point.)

3.Use your environment or one you can picture in your head to spark an idea.

4.Be aware that Judges might not understand in jokes or pop culture references.

5.Don’t elaborate unless it makes an answer creative. One word takes less time than ten.

6.Pick up the key word in the problem. Think of all the meanings, synonyms and spellings. Think of book titles, puns, etc. For example, a “base” could be in “baseball,” a movie (“Basic Instinct”) or be spelled differently (bass guitar.)

7.Practice giving responses using cards, dice, anything that keeps the teams from falling into a set pattern of giving responses in a certain order or rhythm that might be broken by the challenges of competition day.


1. Listen carefully to ALL of the directions. The unspoken rule in Odyssey of the Mind® is, “if it doesn’t say you can’t, assume you can.” However, you must listen for do’s and don’ts.

2. Refer questions to Judges or check your team copy if you think your solution might violate the rules. Sometimes a strong willed team member will insist that they know what they are doing and lead the team into a solution that isn’t valid for score. Judges often can not stop a team unless they are doing something dangerous.

3. Try to analyze all aspects of the problem during planning time. Consider materials, time, and potential difficulties.

4. Work out in advance how the team will handle differences of opinion and distribution of materials. Does everyone build the whole object or does each person work on a small piece and join it together at the end? Try many different methods of teamwork to see how your team works best.

5. Practice new uses for objects. What can be done to a piece of paper to make it longer or stronger? What can you use to attach paper plates if you aren’t given tape?

6. Practice taking risks and judging what risks are worth taking.

7. Work on not over thinking a solution. You do not have to use every item given to you in your solution unless the problem specifically requires it.

Most importantly: Plan for things not working out the way the team wanted. These problems are designed to be tricky and sometimes taking a creative risk means your creation ends up falling to the floor. It is important that team members are comfortable with bad luck and don’t blame each other.


1. All participating team members and one coach will report to the Spontaneous Holding Room ten minutes before their listed competition time.

2. In holding teams are encouraged to speak quietly or play cards. They may not play music, do team cheers, move around the holding room or have any food or beverage. The coach is encouraged to collect all electronics.

3. When the team is called, ONLY team members may go to the Spontaneous Problem Room. Spontaneous is not a spectator event.

3. Upon entering the Spontaneous Room, a judge will tell the team the type of problem. The team members will be given one minute to decide which five team members will participate. (If there are only five the ALL must participate, if they are present at the tournament.)

4. The non-participating team members stay in special seats set aside for them in the room. They must remain quiet and serve as observers only. It is recommended that all team members come, since they are still part of the team, whether competing or not. There will be no penalty for not sending more than five team members. However, if a team has only five or fewer team member, all must report.

5. The team will quietly return to holding. The coach will escort them out of Spontaneous.

6. Be sure all team members know they MAY NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES discuss or reveal the nature of the spontaneous problem until after the competition is ended! (Wait for the awards ceremony to talk about it – and even then only in private, as other regions/states may be using the same problem! Problems should remain secret until after the last US/international tournament prior to World Finals.)

7. Special cases.

A team that has fewer than five team members should have all team members participate, but the team might be at a disadvantage in some spontaneous problems.

Primary teams will not be scored in most Spontaneous problems but are encouraged to compete for the experience.

8. There is no appeals process for Spontaneous scoring or problems.  Concerned coaches should speak to the Spontaneous Problem Captain.

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