My son Jake has participated in Destination Imagination (DI) for the last eight years. DI is a team-oriented creative problem-solving competition. Each year in October, teams (comprised of five to seven kids) must choose one out of five long-term challenges -- each with a different focus (Technical/Mechanical, Theater Arts/Science, Theater Arts/Fine Arts, Theater Arts/Improvisation, Structural & Architectural Design). Each Team Challenge is designed to be open-ended
and solvable in many ways and on many levels. In competition the long-term challenge counts for 75% of the score.
The Instant Challenge portion of a DI Tournament accounts for 25% of the score. During Instant Challenge, teams are given a challenge on the spot and asked to solve it in about five to eight minutes. No one knows ahead of time what the Challenge will be. Kids really have to be good at thinking on their feet.
The coolest part about DI is that adult intervention is strictly prohibited. Kids must create, build, and present their solutions without any adult direction and assistance (other than chauffeuring and paying the bills). In the early days, it was difficult to bite my parental tongue but I have come to really enjoy this aspect. First off, it is quite liberating. Secondly, I realized that if adults were involved, the solutions would not have been anywhere near as imaginative.
I am convinced these DI kids will make ideal business partners because they are extraordinarily creative and they understand the power of teamwork. They definitely have learned how to think innovatively to solve problems cheaply, efficiently, and elegantly.
Here's how the competition works. First place winners on the state level qualify to compete at the Global Finals. And let me tell you, Global Finals is a spectacle to behold when a cross-section of the most creative kids in the world come together. Competition is extremely stiff.
My son has won first place in Iowa and gone to the Global Finals four times. In seventh grade, his team came in 6th globally and, in eighth grade, 5th. (4th, 5th and 6th place are like honorable mention; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bring home flashy hardware -- medals and trophies.)
When in tenth grade, Jake's team won 2nd place and I thought I had reached Parent Nirvana but this year, Jake's 12th grade team finished first in the world and they also won the prestigious Renaissance Award for outstanding design, engineering, execution, and performance. The centerpiece of their solution was a homemade computer with its electromagnetic switches constructed out of nails and copper wire. The damn thing could add. The judges were absolutely blown away.
As you can imagine, I am still kvelling. Here's a picture of the world champs. Jake is front row, second from left. As proud as he is of his accomplishment, I am more so.
Even though I am a little sad to see the end of this exciting chapter in our lives, I am relieved our home will no longer be the "mess house" where solutions are designed and built. That means I won't have to peel scrapes of duct tape off my socks any more.