A Season of Creativity ~ Destination Imagination in Bedford


By Jennifer Cunningham

The winter of 2018 will probably best be remembered for three back-to-back Nor’Easters and the best snow days of the season, and kids all over town likely took advantage in time-honored ways: sledding, building snowmen, sleeping late…and of course, ransacking their households to create “projects” out of craft supplies, recyclables, and repurposed junk.  Others may have spent the snow days researching projects and ideas they are curious about or playing with friends and siblings to build something collaborative that incorporates many different talents and ideas.

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Courtesy images (c) 2017-2018 all rights reserved

But for nearly 60 Bedford kids, that spirit of ingenuity, creativity, and improvisation lasts all season long.  Throughout the winter, these students have participated in collaborative team-based problem solving through Destination Imagination, a national nonprofit creativity competition in which kids work in groups of two to seven to solve open-ended challenges in the fields of science, engineering, architecture, fine arts and service learning.   The DI program culminates in March when students bring the results of their handiwork to regional and state competitions to show off their inventiveness, collaboration, and hard work.

Each year the challenges change but their premise remains the same: kids research, construct, and present entirely original work in a team-selected STEAM field such as technology, structural engineering, or fine arts. Students are matched up into teams of up to 7 students in the fall and work together all winter on solving their selected challenge, including writing scripts, building scenery, and designing props, costumes and other elements on a very small budget and entirely without input or assistance from people outside of their team. In real-world terms, parents can’t measure, cut or nail together wood for the team, sew costumes, or fix something that falls apart.  Everything about the project from concept to design to execution is entirely student-driven.  Over the course of the season, kids learn about time management, resource management, and the design process.

At the tournament at Chelmsford High School on March 18, trained appraisers scored each aspect of the teams’ solutions on criteria including originality, workmanship, presentation, and teamwork.  In addition to the prepared presentation, each team was also evaluated on an “Instant Challenge.” Unlike the central challenge where teams have months to create their presentation, Instant Challenges are solved in a matter of a few minutes, using communication and problem-solving strategies the students have developed over the course of the season.

This year, a total of 58 Bedford students participated in a variety of challenges including:

Maze Craze

This technical challenge asked teams to build a device to navigate a tournament-provided maze, design and build a prop to transform in the maze and create and present a story about a journey through the maze.

“The Skittleworms,” a team of Bedford 6th graders (Ada Cooprider Toby Favalora, Evan Kelly, Rachael Hsu, Hayden McAllister, and Jane Stewart) selected the Maze Craze challenge this year, incorporating a homemade electromagnet, a line-following IR sensing robot, and an original musical composition into their challenge solution.  After winning the regional championship in Chelmsford on March 18, this team advanced to the Massachusetts state competition where they took the 2nd place trophy.

Unlikely Attraction

This year’s scientific challenge was to explore scientific concepts used in amusement park attractions, design and build an attraction, and to create and present a story about that attraction operating in an unlikely location.

In their solution to this challenge, Bedford 4th graders Tyler Munsie, Arin Pravate, Rishabh Sudakar, and Tyler Waldron, competing as “US RATT Revolution” used concepts from physics and chemistry to research and build a roller-coaster.

Drop Zone

Students solving this challenge learned concepts of structural engineering to design and build a freestanding structure that was as light as possible that could still withstand impacts from 5- and 10-lb dropped weights.  Students were also asked to create a story about a sudden event with a dramatic impact and to use technical methods to depict the event visually or audibly.  Two different teams of Bedford students selected this challenge.

The “Cookie Candy Squad”, a 4th grade team of Evelyn Chiu, Abby Cutrona, Parker Ferguson, Druthi Muppala, Alexa Nardelli, Ciara Shelton and Nadia Thacore created a story about a meteor shower and the “Rainbow Dragons” 3rd grade team of Abby Bourret, Amelia Bullard, Gabe Favalora, Madeline Frederick, Taylor Hallett, Nayan Karthikeyan, and Marcy Venuti presented a depiction of a tornado striking a science lab.

The Cookie Candy Squad earned a third-place ribbon for their presentation, and The Rainbow Dragons took first place at the regional championships, advancing to earn a 6th place finish at the state level.

Change of Tune

This year’s Fine Arts challenge asked students to create and present a two-act musical about a change in plans and to design and build a set change that operated using technical methods.  Three different Bedford teams solved this challenge.

  • The 4th grade “Moostache Cows” (Liliana Carman, Emory Carroll, Maggie Chessman, Paul Stewart, and Sharanya Vaidianathan) designed a set change operated by pulleys and musical props triggered by touchpad pressure sensors.
  • The “Gummy Pigs,” a 5th-grade team, (Alice Cooprider, Stella Day, Swetha Kaundinya, Amelie Kelly, Victoria Machado and Elena Rodriguez) went on a time-traveling journey from Earth 3100 CE to Earth in the 1800s, exploring sound effects and illusion by building a time machine and a rotating set.
  • At the middle school level, the 8th-grade “Narwhal Ninjas” (Annie Bernstein, Maddie McAllister, Maddie O’Neil, and Mary Stewart) designed and built a rotating stage for their 8-minute musical about a rivalry between pop stars.

Rising Stars

In addition to these competitive teams, Bedford DI was pleased to have three teams of “Rising Stars,” a noncompetitive introductory bracket for children in grades 2 and below.

Davis School teams represented Bedford by creating solutions to “Friends Everywhere,” a challenge which asked them to research how children in other cultures live, eat, learn, and play. This year’s Rising Stars were

  • “Amaze Blaze” (Jocelyn Bullard, Jill Cascio, Zivah Chessman, Graham Dorr, Emma Murphy, and Abby Titlow)
  • “Six Crazy Candy Corns” (Griffin Baron, Jeremy Grossman, Avery Malenchini, Hannah Malenchini, Keira Pandya, and Abby Yano), and the
  • “Super Rainbow Dragons” (Kyle Ayres, Georgia Brandt, Brielle Carman, Blake Cieplinski, Ella Dadah, Adam Silver, Darshan Vaidianathan, and Acadia Zorn)

Bedford MADI is pleased to congratulate all of this year’s participants for their exceptional imagination, persistence, and teamwork!

Getting Involved in DI

Registration for Destination Imagination begins each September and culminates with competitive performances in March. To find out more, go to  www.destinationimagination.org or email jenn.cunningham@gmail.com.

Information on next year’s challenges can be found at https://www.destinationimagination.org/wp-content/uploads/18-19-Challenge-Overview-Flyer-1.26.18.pdf

Bedford DI is also always looking for more adults to volunteer their time and talents to enable kids’ amazing creative potential! Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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