Destination: State |

Destination: State

Creative problem-solvers Denver-bound

— Six Soda Creek Elementary students were hitting pots and pans with whisks and spoons this week — practicing their own brand of music in preparation for a state competition.

The team was getting ready for the state Destination Imagination competition, which is today at the University of Denver. Soda Creek is one of six local teams that qualified for state, although only four teams are making the trip because the competition coincides with the Steamboat Springs schools’ spring break.

Destination Imagination replaced Odyssey of the Mind as a brain-teasing, problem-solving competition and participants are giving it high marks so far.

“I felt like it opened up a whole new world for them,” parent and coach Pam Brenner said. “They’d never thought of a project this large and about making something work when they don’t know anything about it.”

Destination Imagination offers teams six challenges within the theme “Food for Thought.” Each challenge requires specific elements to be included in the solution, whether it be dimensional or conceptual. Each team can have up to seven students. The coaches, who are parents or teachers, cannot provide answers but can ask leading questions, Brenner said.

In the qualifying round, the Soda Creek team tackled the problem “If Music be the Food of Life.” Using only music, the students had to tell a story that included references to the five senses.

The team had a lot of discussions about how to do the project, team member Lewis Cutter said. The result is “Reboot 2500” that tells a story about a school in the future, where students and robots are side by side, eating and playing cards.

“People may not communicate the same way we do,” Theresa Cutter said, adding that the cards are a form of communication.

The synchronicity of the instruments represented what is most important about this challenging mind problem that makes students tap into both their creative and technical sides: teamwork.

“We learned to work together more and tried to have a really fun time, no matter what we did. Even if you’re not having a good time, you have to try,” Teresa Cutter said.

Brenner’s team at Strawberry Park constructed a “Fruit Roller Coaster,” building a speedy roller coaster for their “fruit,” which was a tennis ball. The team was limited by size, but also had to include several “thrill events” like jumps or loops. It was judged on how fast the ball made it through the roller coaster, as well as some artistic and spontaneous elements.

The project took some research. Brenner said the students used the Internet as a resource and invited former science teacher Bud Romberg in for a lesson.

“They learned about gravity and friction and arches and potential energy,” Brenner said.

She was impressed at how innovative her team was, using a leaf-blower for some extra propulsion. All the teams were limited to spending no more than $100, so Brenner said they used discarded materials from local businesses.

Brenner said the team’s goal was to make it to the state competition. If it doesn’t make it to nationals in Iowa, it’s OK. She said the project took students to a whole level of thinking.

“They’d never done a project where they had to do this much planning,” she said.

– To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail

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