The local Destination Imagination team presented their challenge with a prehistoric theme – dinosaurs and a volcano (Submitted photos)

Four Waconia school district 5th-graders parlayed their technical skills and creativity into a strong showing at the Destination Imagination state competition last month.

The young people – Josie Kisner, Maddie Schachenmeyer, Sean Greenan and Audrey Bauer – joined the program through District 110 Community Education. And it wasn’t long before they were immersed in a workroom in the Greenan basement in the challenges and problem solving posed by Destination Imagination.

Destination Imagination (coined DI by participants) fosters students’ creativity and curiosity through open-ended academic challenges in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, fine arts and service learning. Through DI, participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, and respect for others and their ideas in a collaborative process. And teams may showcase their solutions at a tournament, like the local 5th-graders did.

The group chose an engineering challenge called “Drop Zone” as their project, in which they designed, built and tested a wooden structure to withstand impacts from dropped weights

It wasn’t just an engineering project.

As part of the challenge, students also were required to design and create a storyline with dramatic impact. In their case, the local students chose to take a step back in time to the prehistoric era. They suited up two of their story tellers as dinosaurs and built a volcano that in their story spewed boulders to cause the impact. They even created a chemical reaction that caused the simulated volcano to erupt.

“DI is great in that it brings together creativity and science,” said team advisor Jennifer Schachenmeyer. “I’ve never seen so much energy and persistence, and in the end these kids came up with a project they can all be proud of.”

Students were required to design and build their structure within certain parameters. In competition, they were judged on multiple aspects of their challenge, including their project and accompanying story. Plus, they had to tackle a surprise “instant challenge.”

One example of that is building a tower from uncooked spaghetti and mailing labels – although students are sworn to secrecy about their own instant challenge so as not to spill the beans to other competing teams.

Students worked most of the school year on their Drop Zone challenge, which they presented at a regional competition in February. They ended up winning at regionals and advanced onto state in Champlain, Minn., where they took third.

While doing well in competition was nice, the best parts of DI, according to local participants, included seeing their script and costumes come to life; watching the older kids in their competition, which featured even more elaborate challenges; but maybe best of all, their dinner celebration after DI.

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