Every April, thousands of people from all over Wisconsin come to Stevens Point for the state level competition of Destination Imagination, DI.
The tournament involves teams of kids of all ages, from preschool to the university level, working together to accomplish a goal in an innovative and creative way. The DI websites calls it “an opportunity for kids to connect with and support other creative thinkers who participate in the program.”
Jim Pelikan, vice-chair on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Destination Imagination team, has had his own children involved in the program for years.
“It’s tough on some kids because it’s not an ’everybody gets a trophy’ type thing,” said Pelikan.
“We want to make sure kids are getting involved in the STEAM curriculum,” which is the traditional STEM subjects with the added “Arts” portion, Pelikan said.
This year there were 265 teams, and a total of 1,600 kids. Meaning over 6,000 people were on campus and in Stevens Point as a result.
Teams compete at one of 13 regional competitions first, and the top two teams then move on to state, which is held at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point every year.
The top three teams from State then move on to the Global Finals held each May in Knoxville, Tennessee where competitors from more than 15 countries come together.
Pin trading is common at the Global competition as well, where kids from all over the world exchange mementos of their experience with one another. It is so popular that the Destination Imagination website has guidelines for the types of pins that can be traded.
The entire organization is made possible by generous volunteers that donate their time to run the regional, state, and global level competitions.
Mike Broetzmann is one of those volunteers who helped manage the technical challenge this year. As an affiliate challenge master, he sees the value of bringing parents into this educational experience as they can serve as a team’s advisor.
From contributing ideas to screwing in bolts, parents are not allowed to interfere at all.
“This is where kids can showcase their different talents,” said Broetzmann.
Competition is divided into seven challenges, and by elementary, middle, and secondary school levels.
The different challenges are technical, scientific, engineering, fine arts, improvisational, instant and project outreach. The eighth category is the rising stars level which is not competitive, but aims to expose young children to the atmosphere of team work.
Michelle Shulfer, senior lecturer of clinical laboratory science, has children of her own that have been part of Destination Imagination, and has been to Globals with them. In eighth grade, her son’s team took first at the state level, and brought home the gold at Globals in the improvisational category.
“It’s all team building and helps the kids think outside the box and be creative,” said Shulfer.
There are never many teams from the university level at the global finals according to Shulfer, and she thinks a lack of awareness is a large part of the issue.
The Milwaukee School of Engineering has been known to compete, and Shulfer would love to see more local university competition at Destination Imagination.
To form a team, volunteer or to learn more, visit www.destinationimagination.org.