Brownsville Destination ImagiNation Team Takes State Finals

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by Heidi Brown

The “Fasteroni Thinkers,” a third-grade team from Brownsville Elementary School, pose with the trophy they won at the state finals of DestiNation Imagination.  The group of 8- and 9-year-olds will represent Virginia at the global competition in Knoxville, Tenn., in May.  Team managers Sue Brown, far left, and Joanne Meier, far right, flank the students (from left): Julia Douvas, Kella Meier, Everett McConville, Annie Meenan (with trophy), Isabel Brown, Thomas Cunningham and Rowan Breen.
The “Fasteroni Thinkers,” a third-grade team from Brownsville Elementary School, pose with the trophy they won at the state finals of DestiNation Imagination. The group of 8- and 9-year-olds will represent Virginia at the global competition in Knoxville, Tenn., in May. Team managers Sue Brown, far left, and Joanne Meier, far right, flank the students (from left): Julia Douvas, Kella Meier, Everett McConville, Annie Meenan (with trophy), Isabel Brown, Thomas Cunningham and Rowan Breen.

A third-grade team from Brownsville Elementary School won first place in the state finals of Destination ImagiNation and will represent Virginia at a global competition to be held in Knoxville, Tenn., in May.

The “Fasteroni Thinkers” were one of nearly 100 teams participating in DI events at Western Albemarle High School March 27. Team members included Rowan Breen, Isabel Brown, Thomas Cunningham, Julia Douvas, Everett McConville, Annie Meenan and Kella Meier.

The team of 8- and 9-year-olds, co-managed by Sue Brown and Joanne Meier, beat out six other elementary school finalists to take first place in their challenge, called Direct Deposit. It was the first time a Brownsville team advanced to the state tournament.

Destination ImagiNation is a community-based, school friendly program that encourages children to work together in fun, creative ways to solve a particular problem. Teams pick from one of several challenges and begin work in October to solve the problem. All the ideas, designs and building must be done solely by the students.

“The greatest value is it taught them persistence and problem solving,” said Meier. “Our final product is the fourth version of what we started out with.”

The challenge for the “Fasteroni Thinkers” involved coming up with a structure that could deliver objects over a six-foot barricade into receptacles, without being able to see the target. The team had to stay within a $150 budget for materials and supplies. They had only 8 minutes to present their challenge and deliver all the objects to their intended targets. Oh, and they had to come up with a story to weave the whole thing together.

The “Fasteroni Thinkers” accomplished this by creating a 12-foot crane-like structure they called Toucalinia the Toucan. The “toucan” used a system of pulleys, strings and a plastic cup to deliver bean-bag eggs into several nests woven out of brown paper bags.

“My favorite part was acting out the script,” said Isabel Brown, who played the part of Toucalinia. “I learned how to saw.”

The hard part now is raising enough funds to send the team and their contraption to the world competition in Knoxville on May 26 through May 29. The event usually attracts up to 16,000 people.

Team managers estimate it will cost at least $6,000 for housing, food and event passes for the nine-member team during four days of competition. And that doesn’t include the cost of transporting the 12-foot crane, which will require a flatbed or large truck. Car washes and spaghetti dinners are being discussed, and the team said it will gladly accept donations.

The teams taking part in the state finals were comprised of students from kindergarten through the university level from all regions of the state. In all, 10 Albemarle County teams placed first or second in their challenges to go on to global finals.

A team from V.L. Murray Elementary won second place in the “You’re Gonna Flip” category and a team from Meriwether Lewis Elementary won second place in the “Do or DI” category. A team assembled from all three Albemarle high schools won first place in the “You’re Gonna Flip” category for secondary schools. First and second place finishers in state tournaments advance to the global championship.