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DL elementary school 'engineers' are regional champs

The Foilers (left to right) are: Jack Richards, Max Staley, Cherish Johnson, Zach Teiken, Trenten Johnson, and Ella Henderson.1 / 4
Grandi Costruttori (left to right) are: Alec Avila, Hailey Blonigan, Chris Schmidt, Jordan Rousu, Jakob Bertek (Front)2 / 4
PAULA QUAM/RECORD Trenten Johnson of the Foilers puts weights onto their homemade structure during a presentation Friday.3 / 4
A closer look at the load-bearing structure created by the Foilers group. It weighs about 25 grams but holds 215 pounds, winning first place at the state regional competition.4 / 4

What do you find when you explore your own mind?

If you are a member of Roosevelt Elementary's "Destination Imagination" team, you find a regional championship.

Destination Imagination is a world-wide extra curricular where kids work together in teams to solve challenges.

This is the first year Roosevelt has competed in the competition, so their regional title, which they won at the North Metro Tournament in Blaine, MN on March 26, evoked some frenzy in those imaginative minds.

"The kids are so super excited about it," said DI Coordinator Melisa Gatheridge, who also works with the Gifted and Talented programs at Roosevelt.

Both Detroit Lakes teams, one competing on the elementary level (the Foilers) and one competing on the middle school level because of some of the students' ages (Grandi Costrutorri) took first place at regionals, and are now in Champlin, Minnesota this weekend for the state competition.

First, the students compete on an "Instant Challenge," where students are given an on-the-spot challenge and materials with which they have 8 minutes to create something.

The second area they compete in is the team challenge.

All Destination Imagination teams are given five central "challenges" to choose from, where they have to build a structure and then write and perform a play that incorporates their theme.

"We picked 'Versus Foiled Again,' where the students have to build a structure out of wood, glue and tin foil that will hold as much weight as possible while only being able to weigh 20 grams," said Gatheridge.

At regionals, the Foilers built a 24.8 gram structure (the weight of 24 paper clips), which held 215 pounds.

Grandi Costrutorri's structure broke at 40 pounds.

After making adjustments and rebuilding, both teams are set to compete again.

"We decided to change our structure so that it has hexagons and triangles in it because they are the strongest shapes," explained Grandi Costrutorri team member grader Hailey Blonigan.

"And what we do," adds fellow fifth-grader Trenton Johnson, "is wrap tin foil around our eighth- inch wood because that holds it together without making it weigh too much."

Trenton says he's always loved to build things "from popsicle sticks and stuff," and Mrs. Gatheridge says this type of program gives hands-on experience figuring out a problem.

"They're like a bunch of a little engineers; they have a budget of $100, so they have to think about what they're using and how much things are costing ... so they can't get too elaborate."

They also can't get adult help.

"Nah, they don't ever help us with anything," fifth-grader Zachary Teiken said proudly.

Imagination Destination members sign a "Declaration of Independence," stating they will not get help from any adult on how to build or figure out their challenge.

"They (the kids) have come up with the structure; they have created the costumes, and they have made all their scenery and props, said Gatheridge, adding, "We adults can't do anything."

Gatheridge says the students used hack saws, special glue, staple guns and drills.

"And if we saw them stripping the screws, we couldn't even step in to help."

Gatheridge says about eight of the students' parents volunteer to supervise them during their once a week meetings.

In fact, it is the parents who are now driving and paying for hotels for their students to participate in the state competition in Champlin.

The teams will have to place first or second in order to make it to the global competition in Knoxville, Tenn., at the end of May.

As for Rossman students, Gatheridge says they might be seeing Destination Imagination being offered to them next year.

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