Odyssey of the Mind, sponsored by NASA, was founded in 1978 to develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Featuring local through international levels of competition, students work in teams to solve problems in a variety of areas, from building mechanical devices such as spring-driven vehicles to giving their own interpretation of literary classics. Through solving problems, students learn lifelong skills such as working with others as a team, evaluating ideas, making decisions, and creating solutions while also developing self-confidence from their experiences.
Initiated in 1978, it was originally named "Olympics of the Mind." The first competition consisted of 28 New Jersey schools and was intended to be a one-time event. The enthusiasm from students, parents, teachers, and volunteers compelled organizers to establish the program as an annual event. In 1980, the first non-U.S. team participated in the competition, making it a "World" Finals. Now, teams of up to seven students take on Odyssey challenges each fall and work for months to develop and implement solutions to open-ended problems. They compete against others in the same category and age group. Winning teams advance to State Finals and then to World Finals.