Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Nine teams and 58 students from Albemarle County Public Schools are headed to Destination Imagination’s Global Finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, following the Virginia state competition earlier this month.

Seven teams took first place in the state tournament, including three from Albemarle High School. Other first place finishers included teams from Brownsville and Meriwether Lewis elementary schools and Henley and Sutherland middle schools.

Destination Imagination (DI) is a world-wide program that began in 1982. Its mission is to “develop opportunities that inspire the global community of learners to utilize diverse approaches in applying 21st century skills and creativity.”

Each year, 150,000 students and 38,000 parent volunteers from 48 states and 30 countries compete in one of seven challenge categories. The categories include technical, scientific, engineering, fine arts, service learning, early learning, and improvisation. Students work on presentations and exhibits that solve a challenge posed to them in the fall. Regional and state competitions determine which teams will compete in the Global Finals, which brings together more than 1,400 teams from around the world.

“In so many ways, Destination Imagination was ahead of its time in preparing students for lifetime success. Increasingly in education today, there is a growing emphasis on project-based learning and for good reason. The problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, and analytical thinking skills that are developed from project work are exactly the strengths that always will be valued in our companies and communities,” said Carrie Taylor, a DI regional director and member of its state board.

Each student team can include up to seven members with an adult serving as a mentor or an advisor. Mentors are not permitted to assist students as they develop their ideas into presentations. Most teams begin work in September with local tournaments in February. Competition levels span pre-K through college.

This year, the technical challenge required teams to design and build a stage that moves a team member from one location to another and includes a technical effect that “amazes” the audience. The scientific challenge required students to research and apply methods from cryptography and steganography to reveal secret messages.

Students who selected the engineering challenge had to design, build and test multiple free-standing structures that work together and present a collaborative solution to a global issue. In fine arts, teams had to tell a story on how the disappearance of a color changes the world. The improvisational challenge asked students to create three skits from the same prompt.

The service learning challenge asked students to identify, design, plan and implement a project that addresses an existing community need, and for early learning, students were required to use a simple machine to create and build a new invention. The competition also includes an instant challenge, where teams are unaware of the topic ahead of time, are furnished with materials, and asked to respond within a limited period of time.

“I continue to be amazed by how imaginative and poised these students are,” said Taylor. “Destination Imagination also offers them yet another very important 21st century learning opportunity. That’s the chance to interact and connect with peers from all around our nation and world. These memories and relationships benefit students for a lifetime,” she said.

The Global Competition this year is May 24-27, and for most teams, it presents perhaps the most difficult challenge of all: It’s estimated that it costs over $750 per student to be able to make the trip to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Students now are engaged in various fundraising activities to make the trip possible.

Albemarle County students who qualified for the Global Finals include:

Ablemarle High School

Julia Douvas, Elly Haden, Katy Haden, Alyssa Jordan, Maggie Mathews, Melia Shelton, and Elynore Zarzyski; Mentor is Steph Haden.

A second team of Elly Haden, Katy Haden, Asher King (from Jouett Middle School), Maggie Mathews, Elizabeth Nolan, Melia Shelton, and Sabrina Shisbey; Mentor is Steph Haden.

A third team of Landon Allan, Maryam Alwan, Benny Bigler-Wang, Nicholas Danilich, Katherine Fard, Katriana Hafemeister, and Megan Humphrey; Mentor is Victoria Danilich.

Sutherland Middle School

Rachel Bels, Jackie Joyce, Alia Konold, Emma McMullan, Rand Mohammed, Samantha Sanford, and Sophia Yu; Mentors are Jake Joyce and Guimin Zhang.

Brownsville Elementary School

Mia Bowen, Greer Horridge, MacKenzie Kinnan, Elsie MacCleery, Julian Miles, Charlie Strobach, and Brendan Stype; Mentors are Shannon Horridge, Susan Kinnan, and Alison MacCleery.

A second team of Sam Bledsoe, Finnegan Driscoll, Evan Harris, Katherine Hicks, Greyson Kalergis, Lily Smith, and Makayla Whiting; Mentors are Megan Driscoll and Courtney Smith.

Henley Middle School & Field School

Ben Cairns, Trent Collins, Alex Flamm (Field School), Arden Grosfeld, Asher Grosfeld, and Jack Shadel; Mentors are Pam Cairns and Deborah Henshaw.

Jouett Middle School

Hugh Bowyer, Austin Funk, Daniel Gilmore, Asher King, Lance Proffitt, and Connor Vann; Mentor is Tonya King.

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School

Jack Boyd, Jonah Harris, Eli McIntire, Walker McIntire, Whit Parrish and Jack Steenburgh; Mentors are Sarah Gray Parrish and Laura Steenburgh.