All About OM

Practice Drills

Stories & Humor


World Finals


Odyssey of the Mind Creativity Site
The OM Spontaneous Archive





Hybrid (Verbal-Manipulative) Problems

Nothing More Than Feeling by Lee Semel

  • Summary: The team is presented with five boxes, into which they can reach to feel an item inside. The team members must respond to what they feel inside the boxes.
  • Setup: Before think time begins, give each team member three sets of cards numbered 1 through 5, and two cards marked ‘Free’. Place the numbers 1 through 5 on each of five boxes, with holes cut in the top. Fill the boxes with different, vile materials. For example, fill box 1 with wet spaghetti, box 2 with Jell-O, box 3 with sand, box 4 with Ping-Pong balls, and box 5 with feathers.
  • Problem: Five numbered boxes have been placed before you, each with a different item inside. At any time you may reach into the holes to feel what is inside the boxes. Your problem is to respond to what you feel inside the boxes.
  • You may not look inside the boxes, and you may not move the boxes or remove their contents.
  • Any team member may respond at any time. Only one team member may respond at a time.
  • Each team member will receive a set of numbered cards, and two cards marked ‘Free’. When you want to respond to the contents of a box, you must give the judges a card with the appropriate box number, and make your response. Cards marked ‘Free’ may be used to respond to any box. Once you use up all the cards of a given number, you may no longer respond to that box. You may not give or trade cards with your teammates.
  • You will have 1 minute to think and 4 minutes to respond. You mayreach into the boxes during think time.
  • Scoring: You will receive 1 point for each common response, 5 points for each creative or humorous response.
  • Examples: Common responses include saying what the objects seem to be (i.e. spaghetti, ping pong balls) or describing simple properties of the objects (wet, round). Creative responses include imagining the objects to be other objects (guts, brains, a box of eyeballs, a colony of worms), incorporating the feeling (this seems to be a sticky situation), incorporating the box (beach in a box, just add water), relating the items in different boxes "This box contains the ashes of a dead person … This box contains his eyeballs… This box contains his intestines … This box contains his brains", things said by the item in the box (hey let go!).

Dug Up by Lee Semel

  • Problem: These objects (show two unusual object) has been dug up from the ground together. What could they have been or done?
  • Setup: Give each team member 10 cards. They can respond whenever they want, but have to surrender a card for each response.
  • Timing & Scoring: Three minutes to answer, 1 point for common answers, 5 points for creative. After 4 minutes, switch the objects to two new, even more unusual objects, and repeat.

Dangerous by Lee Semel

  • You will have 5 minutes to discuss and this problem and prepare solutions. Questions count against your time.
  • Each team member will be given an 8.5 by 11 piece of colored paper, a pencil, two paper clips, a ruler, and a piece of tape. These are the only materials you are allowed to use to solve this problem. Spoken words may not be part of the solutions, but team members may speak to each other.
  • At the end of the five minutes, each team member will present two solutions to the judges.
  • Team members may discuss the problem with each other, but may not exchange materials.
  • Your problem is to indicate, show, or explain, using the materials provided, things that are dangerous.
  • You will be scored as follows:
    For each of the ten solutions:

Creativity of the dangerous thing 1-5 points
Creativity of the method of presentation 1-5 points.

Used Car Salesman by Lee Semel

Perform two presentations involving the selling of a used car (give the team a photograph of an old, junked car). Eight minutes total. 1-20 for the creativity of each presentation, 1-10 for how well the used car is incorporated into the presentations, 1-10 for teamwork.

Object Pairs

Assemble a set of five unusual objects. Some should have an identifiable purpose, while others should be more ambiguous (machine or toy parts, for example). With the usual times and scoring procedure, the problem is for each team member, in turn, to pick up two of the objects and respond to them. (Some teams have trouble when told to "respond" to something. Give them examples, i.e. show how two objects can be used together, imagine they are something else, throw them at another team member and say "They're projectiles", scream and say "My lord! A ___ and ___! Run for your lives". Basically do or say something involving the objects.)

Object Pairs: Harder

Place each object by a number. Each team member, upon his or her turn, picks an index card with two numbers printed on it, indicating which objects to respond to.


Assemble a set of unusual objects. The team has 4 minutes to plan and 4 minutes to perform for score. They must devise two stories, and must incorporate the objects into the stories. When scoring time starts, one team member starts a story, and the others respond in turn. When each team member has responded twice, the next story begins, with the same procedure. Score 1-5 for creativity of each response, 1-10 for the quality of each story, and 1-10 for the quality of each story's ending.

Stories with Foil

Same as the previous problem, but instead of objects, give each team member a square of aluminum foil. During the first 4 minutes they can shape the foil any way they choose.

Stories: Harder

Use common, "functionally-fixed" objects instead of unusual ones. This will make it harder for teams to come up with really creative responses.

Movers by Lee Semel

  • Equipment: Five unusual objects
  • Timing: Three minutes to think and five to perform.
  • Problem: Each team member must pick up one object and carry it across the room. When all the objects are at the other side of the room, each team member may carry one back. You many transport the objects as many times as you like, in any order. Only one team member may be carrying an object at a time. Your problem is to do this in an interesting, unusual, thoughtful, entertaining way. You will receive score each time 5 objects are moved to the other side of the room, up to 4 times.
  • Scoring: Creativity of use/interpretation/manipulation of the objects:
    First 5 transported, 1 to 15
    Second 5 transported, 1 to 15
    Third 5 transported, 1 to 15
    Fourth 5 transported, 1 to 15
    Teamwork, 1 to 10
Hey you. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you. You got a problem? Then send it to us and we'll add it to the Spontaneous Archive. Created by Lee and Matthew Semel