Two Sevastopol trains win world titles in the Destination Imagination competition
Members of Sevastopol’s elementary and middle school teams pose for a photo during the Destination Imagination World Finals.
Thirteen Sevastopol students can forever call themselves world champions after two teams returned home last week from Kansas City, Missouri, after competing twice in the Destination Imagination (DI) World Finals.
Working as a team, finding solutions to a problem, and demonstrating precision and thoroughness in planning and construction have helped teams win world championships for engineering and science projects and presentations.
Over the past 30 years, Sevastopol teams have won 14 world championships, but this year’s elementary school team had the distinction of winning in a category that wasn’t related to building structures for the first time in the history of the school of the Institute.
The Sevastopol Core Team consisting of Shane Leist, Ryder Ortmayer, Will Ortmayer, Maggie Thomas, Silas Martin, Jackson Toivonen and Mayra Cordua Stenzel took on the “Up Close” microscopy challenge. They not only used microscopes and discovered microscopic organisms, but they also dominated 19 teams from the United States and Brazil who designed sets, backgrounds, props and larger-than-life characters in a world microscopic.
“Their skit involved hungry tardigrades foraging for sushi in the water that exists in a bromeliad,” said Mindi Vanderhoof, who coached the elementary team with Shelley Stenzel.
The elementary students not only won for their long-term project, but also had the tournament’s highest score for their quick thinking in an “instant challenge”.
At the college level, “we worked very, very hard,” said Finn Mathews, a member of The Ultimates college team.
The team met two or three times a week for nine months to come up with a solution to the “Roll with It” DI engineering challenge. The Ultimates scored extra points for developing a storyline and sketch that tied together how they creatively designed the best items to solve two technological and mechanical problems.
“Our challenge was to build a structure that could roll down a ramp and support as much weight as possible,” Mathews said. “Our structure weighed 26 grams and held over 1,000 pounds.”
The Ultimates’ tiny wheeled structure rolled down a ramp and hit a stress test obstacle without breaking or derailing. The team developed a storyline in which the construction team’s achievements opened imaginary doors or passageways to help the team members make a daring escape from a hidden temple in a mysterious forest.
“Liam Schultz was our builder,” Mathews said. “We had to build a structure, and then we had to build a story that goes with the structure. We used a lot of technical and electrical components in our props, so we learned to work with that. The story heads were Ben [Martin] and Zoe [Copiskey].”
College teammates Evan Isaksen and Marcus Mann also joined the technology, storytelling and engineering project, with support from coaches Nick Schultz and Jenny Hobart. The Ultimates also won the Renaissance Award for demonstrating “extraordinary effort and preparation in their solutions or exceptional skill in engineering, design or performance”.
The program’s longtime volunteer mentor and supporter, Jerry Borkovetz, said the college group used artistic and collaborative skills to design elaborate and changing backgrounds. They imagined several obstacles to overcome, such as crossing an imaginary fire and dodging a rolling coffin that contained a skeleton with eyes that light up. They also encountered snakes they made with pop can tabs and corks donated by local wineries, Borkovetz said.
“One of the challenges was to have a rotating object,” he said, so “they made an electromagnet and some magnets attached to a bicycle wheel. They pulsed the electromagnet with a photocell so turn it on and off to attract the magnets to the wheel and spin it in. They had a very technical solution and scored very well.
Sevastopol School District teams had already earned a reputation for strength in STEAM — science, technology, arts, engineering and math — before STEAM became a catchphrase, Borkovetz said. He started helping students in the program in 1993, when it was called Odyssey of the Mind.
Borkovetz said schools in Door County, Kewaunee, Algoma and Manitowoc were strong competitors in DI, and one year Sevastopol and Gibraltar finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the global competition.
Some schools have focused on robotics in recent years, such as the Washington Island and Southern Door teams that qualified for major competitions this spring.
Sevastopol District leaders remain focused on DI extracurricular activity for many reasons, and they receive financial and volunteer support from the community to help families pay for the trips involved and to help students learn life skills. .
“It teaches kids how to collaborate creatively and become critical thinkers, which is important in our world,” Vanderhoof said. “They worked hard. Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
Former coach Ann Rabach said it’s important for teams to have students who are leaders in the arts, engineering and construction. It’s also important to attract students who have a lot to offer but don’t realize it.
“Sometimes we have a child who doesn’t have self-confidence,” she said. “They have to speak in front of people. They have to solve a problem in front of people. If we can get them out of their comfort zone to do that, that’s a win for the kids.
Team members who qualify for the Global Finals typically meet students from up to 27 countries who are among the half-million DI participants worldwide. Vanderhoof said only six countries have sent teams to Kansas City this year, however, due to COVID-19 concerns and other factors.
“Ukrainian affiliates didn’t come,” Vanderhoof said. “I believe they said there were 49 teams training in Ukraine.”