Syracuse was very well represented at the Destination Imagination Global Finals held May 23-26 in Knoxville, Tenn.  Both S-D-A Middle School teams of high ability learners advanced through local and state competition to be selected for the global competition that included more than 8,000 participants from 38 U.S. states, six Canadian Provinces and 19 countries.
Destination Imagination is a project based learning experience where students work throughout the school year on completing specific STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, or Math) challenges and performing at competitions on the local, state, and global level.
Several members of the 7th grade team “Controlled Chaos” have participated in the Destination Imagination competition for the last three years.  The others were all in their second year.  These seven students competed in the Arts Challenge wearing costumes they made, performing music and script that they wrote on a set that they built all themselves.
The team placed 11 out of 86 teams, and they were very pleased with the results of all their hard work.  Along the way, students really gained an understanding of how hard you have to work to reach a goal.  Jackson Nordhues said, “The week before state, our base broke and we had to remake it.  We worked every day after school until 10 at night.”
Controlled Chaos was selected as one of the two Nebraska teams to walk in the Opening Ceremonies (much like the Olympic opening ceremonies where they entered the arena in a festive parade).  The students were all thrilled with the opportunity.
A big part of the Destination Imagination program is putting students in leadership roles rather than having a parent or teacher direct them. “Nerd Herd” team member Noah Baehr enjoyed his first trip to the Global Finals with the 5th grade team.  He said, “You get to do a bunch of different things and you learn a lot.  It’s completely student led.”
The Nerd Herd competed in the Engineering Challenge where they dropped weights onto a structure that they built in order to see if it could withstand the force.  
The challenge also included a story to go along with it and props.  In the team’s first year, they tied for 22nd place out of 89 teams. The team also received the DaVinci award for their “clever use of a deconstructed microwave and recycled materials.”
Their fairytale scene included the thundering collapse of a tree triggered by lights and repurposed microwave elements.
In addition to competitions, the teams were able to participate in a multitude of workshops, like Magic, Adventures in Chemistry, 3D printing, creative characters, and many more.  
In their action packed week, the students participated in welcome and closing ceremony, international block party, Evening Under the Stars with food and live band, Costume Ball, Instant Challenge Festival, games, labs, watching other challenges, pool and recreational inflatables, and more.
Many of the students say that pin trading was their favorite part.  Katelyn Smith was most excited about the set of “claw” pins that she had collected from different states and countries.  At Global Competition, students bring pins from their own state or country and trade them with others for their pins.  In the end, they can end up with a wonderful collection and the stories to go along with the people they met in the process.
Parent Rick Nordhues said, “I would like to thank everybody that supported them.  Without the support, it wouldn’t be possible.  I like watching kids go out and mingle with people from other states and countries.  They were mingling with people from all over the world which I think is valuable.”
Sherlyn Damme has been a parent sponsor of Destination Imagination for the last three years.  In the past, the teams have only had four or five students, but this year they ended up with seven person teams.  She noted that it was harder with having that many kids who naturally take leadership roles, but all the students said they felt they had gained a better understanding of each other and how to work together.
Damme said, “We are thankful to the entire community.  It was a wonderful experience with a very big price-tag.  We couldn’t do it without their support.”