By Rebecca Schmitz
Brownsville Elementary School’s fifth grade Destination Imagination (DI) team won first place in the “Making Waves” challenge at the Virginia state competition, qualifying them to compete in the Global Finals in Tennessee May 20- 23. They are now busy raising funds to pay for their trip to the global event, which usually attracts around 16,000 students from more than 20 countries. (Global events are held in May throughout the world, so that students can compete in their own countries).
The seven members of Team “Cymatic Fanatics”—Jackson Douvas, Grace Boitnott, Ellie Boitnott, Lucas Farmer, Rachel Walker, Sophie Lanahan, and Elke Beaumont—were challenged to design a sound machine that could make sound waves (cymatics) visible. They achieved this by creating a high-frequency sound that moves sand into a visible pattern, and building an electronic circuit that creates a low-frequency sound that makes gak (a mixture of corn starch and water) fly through the air.
Although each DI team has two or three adult leaders, the children must come up with their own ideas and implement these ideas themselves. Adults may give guidance and advice, but they cannot tell the students how to solve a particular problem or help them build anything. The students must learn to work together effectively as a group by listening to each other’s ideas, resolving conflicts, and using the unique skills and talents of each team member.
In order to raise funds to go the global event, the team hosted a pasta dinner in Brownsville’s cafeteria on April 17. Parent volunteers donned hairnets and worked the cafeteria line, serving heaping dishes of pasta, garlic bread, and salad to hungry attendees. They also offered “curbside service,” which allowed families to submit orders ahead of time, pull up to the curb, and have their meals delivered to them by members of the team—all without having to get out of the car! The team raised over $800 and went through 20 lbs. of pasta.
It costs about $700 per attendee to go to the global competition. The team is trying to raise funds to pay for the seven team members and three adult volunteers who have worked tirelessly with the children—Holly Walker, Rich Boitnott, and Sue Brown—to attend the event. They will be holding a pancake breakfast fundraiser on Saturday, May 2, from 8 to 11 a.m. at Crozet Park in the Dauset Pavillion; and a car wash at the Crozet BP on Saturday, May 9, from 12 to 3 p.m.
Destination Imagination is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging creativity in learning and inspiring future generations of innovators and leaders. It holds project-based competitions each year, with a range of challenges teams can choose from. This year, teams could choose challenges from the following categories: scientific, technical, structural, fine arts, improvisational and community service. (Brownsville’s team chose to tackle the scientific challenge.) Teams meet after school at least once a week throughout the fall, winter, and beyond (if they continue to advance through the tournaments). Besides being judged on their main project, they must also solve an “instant challenge” at competitions. They are given a problem and materials to solve it, and must think quickly and work together to come up with a solution. For example, they might be given only a few minutes to build a structure that can support a full peanut butter jar using only Popsicle sticks, icing, and graham crackers.
The Cymatics Fanatics were required to present their challenge at competitions in an entertaining way by using their sound machine to tell a story creatively. In order to give back to the Brownsville community and promote the DI program, they will be performing their challenge in front of the 4th and 5th graders at Brownsville to supplement the students’ science curriculum.
Fifth-grader Elke Beaumont cites teamwork as the secret to her group’s success. “What I’ve liked the most about being on the DI team this year is that I get to work with my friends in a bunch of different situations…. We have to do these instant challenges and some of them are building something, or they can be a performance and we have to work together as a team to solve the problem or create something. It’s fun and also challenging, so you need to get to know your team pretty well, which we have done this year…. Without teamwork, everything would collapse. Strong team work is the building block that has helped us do so well in our competitions.”