Posted on


The following problems are for practice only. To view the synopses of the official 2022 - 2023 Odyssey of the Mind problems, click here!

Return to Problem Categories | Return to previous page

Tug o War

(This problem is adapted from Problems to Challenge Creativity by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus.)

This activity may be done with any number of students. Students will work individually or in groups of 2-5 to make links that will be joined together to form a chain to be used in a tug-of-war. You should select 2 or 4 non-participating students to participate in the tug-of-war and to keep track of the score.


  1. Give each team an envelope containing one tissue, 4 toothpicks, one adhesive mailing label, one straw, one rubber band, one Styrofoam cup, and one piece of 8 1/2" x 11" paper.
  2. Make up tags containing each team's name (two per team).
  3. Have a scissors and a coffee can available for the students to use.
  4. Read "The Problem" and "Scoring the Solutions" to the students.
  5. Give the students 6 minutes to develop their solutions. Do not allow teams to view each other's solutions.
  6. Test the completed links to make sure the coffee can is able to pass through. If a link does not accept the can, it is disqualified.
  7. Mark each completed link with the team's tag.
  8. Form two chains -- Chain A and Chain B -- by attaching the links together with a 15-inch piece of clothesline using a square knot. Once all the links are attached, add a 3-foot rope to each end to serve as a pulling device.
  9. Test the chains by having individuals tug at both ends.
  10. Score as each link breaks. Once all links are broken, total the score.

The Problem:
  1. You have 6 minutes to develop your solution. You may talk to your teammates at any time.
  2. Using the envelope of materials, you are to make two links for tug-of-war chains. You will choose one link to be attached to Chain A and one to be attached to Chain B.
  3. Each link must have an opening large enough for a one-pound coffee can to fit through.
  4. You may not alter the coffee can and you may not use the scissors as part of your links.
  5. Once your links are completed, they will be attached to either Chain A or Chain B. The chains will then be used in a tug-of-war.

Scoring the Solutions:

  1. Testing Chain A: When the first links breaks, each remaining link receives 1 point. When the second link breaks, each remaining link receives 2 points, and so on.
  2. Testing Chain B: When the first links breaks, each remaining link receives 5 points. When the second link breaks, each remaining link receives 6 points, and so on.
  3. Each team's points for its links in Chain A and Chain B will be added for its final score.
  4. The team with the highest score wins the Tug O' War!