The Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award represents the essence of the Odyssey of the Mind. It is presented to teams or individuals who exhibit exceptional creativity, either through some aspect of their problem solution, or an extraordinary idea beyond the problem solution. A successful problem solution is not a criterion for winning the award; rather, the award is a way to acknowledge and encourage creative thinking and risk-taking.
Ranatra Fusca is the term for a classification of water insect. Although this may seem a remote association to creative thinking, the name has a special meaning in Odyssey of the Mind. The Odyssey of the Mind was born from a college class taught by its founder, Dr. Sam Micklus, in which he assigned students to create a flotation device to transport them across a pond. One student designed a water strider-like contraption. The device did not solve the problem because of its inability to maintain proper balance; however, if given the time and opportunity to “go back to the drawing board,” the student would have been able to correct this and cross the pond. Even though the device did not work properly, the idea was exceptionally creative.
Teams that earn a Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award are eligible to advance to the next level of competition, regardless of where they place in the tournament. Ranatra Fusca winners at the World Finals level receive a medal and have their team name engraved on the Ranatra Fusca trophy. This has been a tradition since 1981, and the trophy is on display each year at World Finals.