Tournament of Minds, Peter

“I don’t know how to describe how enjoyable the experience was…” “I learnt so many valuable life lessons”, reflections sent to Geelong Director of Tournament of Minds, Peter Lamb. Teams of seven mixed year-level students around Australia and overseas are about to embark on a 6-week journey to come up with a creative solution to an open-ended challenge in one of four disciplines. It’s called ‘Tournament of Minds.’


Judges Required! There are primary and secondary divisions for each challenge category, the groups are judged by panels of three judges with relevant but diverse backgrounds. Typically, between 30 and 40 judges are needed on tournament day. The key requirements as a judge are knowing how to be supportive of the students, to be able to give positive and constructive feedback, and to be able to recognise originality and creativity.  Some training is given but new judges are always placed with experienced judges. It is a rewarding role, working with the future leaders of our community.

Teams from the Geelong Region will present at the Waurn Ponds campus of Deakin University on Sunday August 26. Each team will give their best inspiring and creative response to a new separate spontaneous challenge given to them on tournament day. They will also present their solution to the larger, open ended challenge that they have worked on in their own time during the previous 6 weeks.

TOM seeks to build skills in lateral thinking and creative problem solving, and in appreciating and learning how to work in teams.  Students, with a range of different skills, learn that working in teams is not always easy, but through the development of important life skills such as respect for others’ ideas and opinions, listening, respect, and confidence, demonstrates to them how beneficial it is to learn to build on others’ ideas rather than tear them down.  They must also learn how to present their solution in an effective and entertaining manner.  It’s interesting for the students to note that often the best learning comes from the team making mistakes!

All these are vital life skills for making worthwhile contributions in a rapidly changing world.

All members of the TOM Committee, which organises the Geelong region Tournament, are volunteers, as are the judges and helpers.  Schools and judges across Australia can register to participate via the portal at where more details can be found.

Peter Lamb, Geelong Director, began his involvement 29 years ago when his elder daughter took part in one of the first Tournaments in Melbourne. He was instrumental in starting the Geelong arm of TOM, now running 24 years with over 5,000 students competing. Geelong region has seen a number of teams progress to the State tournament at Latrobe University, Melbourne and go on to the Pacific Australasia finals which will be held in Darwin this year.

Peter’s background is in physics with a doctorate from Oxford.  Then as a research scientist at CSIRO for 27 years followed by some 7 years at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials.  One of his pleasures has been to draft many of the Maths Engineering challenges, used throughout Australia.

This year the four categories of challenge are Social Science, Language Literature, STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths), and The Arts.  However, Peter’s biggest thrill is to see the students being excited by their own and their team’s growth and achievements. This is what maintains Peters passion and drive to continue this event each year.

Parents are encouraged to watch, be excited by, and applaud as many of the long-term presentations as they can fit in.  However, there is no audience for the Spontaneous challenge as all teams must undertake the same secret challenge.  Parents – Watch them grow and celebrate their success!

Story: Janine Quick. Photo: Supplied