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Monday, September 21, 2015

Closing Ceremonies and elation

The closing ceremonies were such a grand affair. There was great fanfare and entertainment before they started announcing the winners. Each time a new event was announced, a huge screen would post the runners-up teams that placed in 10th-4th in the rankings. (Each event had 80-100 teams compete, so placing in the top 10 was a big deal.)

Each of the ranking teams would stand and wave while the crowd cheered for them.  If any of the top 10 teams came from your state, the entire section of teams from that state with stand and cheer with pride. Destination Imagination is a serious 'sport' in Texas, where it has by FAR the highest participation per capita compared to anyplace else in the world. As a result, Texas is allowed to send way more teams than any other region in the world. With a team member count of 3,000, anytime Texas teams cheered, the roar was deafening.

It was like a great party! Texas also has a reputation for being the most hyper-competitive place in the world for DI, so Texas teams have always placed well at the global level. There was always a Texas team in the top 10 in every event so we did a lot of cheering, jumping in joy, and screaming. It was such fun.

When our event finally was announced we saw our name on the board listed as 7th place overall. We had competed against 86 teams from around the world and we were delighted to score so well. We cheered and screamed and jumped up and down and were just delighted. In addition to the regular rankings in each event, they also announced one medal for the top Instant Challenge score.

When they called our name for the Instant Challenge winner, we could scarcely believe our ears. We never ever expected to score first in instant challenge. It took us a moment to register the fact that our team name was called. We flew out of our seats into the air screaming like maniacs. Then we made the victory lap running around the floor of the stadium while the arena cheered for us.

Our team received their medals on the stage and then were able to run across the stage waving to the audience as they exited the floor.

Just look at these faces! This was backstage as we were waiting to have official portraits done.

We never expected anything like this to happen, most especially since our team was half the size of the others and we hadn't been able to have very serious team practices in months, due to our pending cross-country move. What a wonderful way to bring a close to my years of coaching DI. We were on cloud nine and couldn't stop laughing and jumping up and down and hugging each other.

What an amazing thing for these children to be able to say they were the best in the whole world in this event. It's rather interesting to compare this to our earlier experiences with DI when they thought they would never be able to get the hang of this instant challenge. Sarah didn't even participate in the instant challenge portion of the competition our first year in DI, because it was so difficult for her. There are so many emotions and it was great to see our years of training and sacrifice be rewarded.

After the Closing Ceremonies, there were parties until midnight. In true Global Finals fashion, the parties were filled with food, live music, dancing, and dozens of games and inflatables to play on. At the party venue the official scores were posted for every team in every event. Here we are in 7th overall, and our last score on the right shows our Instant Challenge score. Our raw score was 90 out of 100 points, then it was scaled to a perfect 100 since we had the highest score.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Global Finals- our competition summaries

Our competitive events were scheduled on two separate days so there could be no conflict with the craziness of transportation across campus. The instant challenge portion was rather interesting. There was such a fun way of pumping up energy before the students went in. A DJ was hosting a dance party in a big plaza where we checked in for our event. Each time a large wave of students would head into the building for their instant challenge, there would be a long line of parents, coaches and other supporters creating a tunnel for all of the students to run through before they reached the building. As we ran through the tunnel all of the supporters would cheer and yell and give us encouragement. It sure helped boost the adrenaline level right before competing.

Inside the building we were divided into our different events and sent to our individual classrooms where there was a panel of 8 judges waiting. In the Instant Challenge event, coaches aren't allowed to do anything. The kids have to come up with their own solution and build it themselves. If I move at all to make any signals, they lose points for interference. So I stand in one corner with my arms folded and just watch- this is always the most stressful part of any DI competition. We train all year on a variety of creative problem-solving techniques and teamwork skills- and this is the fire to see if anything I taught them will stick under pressure.

Our instant challenge was an engineering one. In the middle of the room was there two ladders with a post suspended between them. From the post hung a large metal hook. The students were given the challenge to design and build a bucket that could hang from the hook and hold a cup of beans, a cup of rice, and a cup of water for a minute without leaking. They would receive 50 points for the strength of the bucket (leaked ingredients lost points), 30 points for their creative use of materials, and 20 points for teamwork.

They were given 3 minutes to build their bucket and one minute to hang it, and one minute to fill it. They were not allowed to touch the bucket while they filled the bucket. The supplies they were given were: a piece of newspaper, a small piece of tin foil, a paper plate, a couple pipe cleaners, a rubber band, a balloon, a couple Popsicle sticks, and 2 mailing labels.

Our team did such a great job pulling together and they designed a great bucket. Sarah folded the paper plate into a bucket shape, then she also put the folded the newspaper into a box-shaped container to add height to the bucket walls. They lined the inside of the box with tin foil to make it water tight. The handle was constructed out of pipe cleaners. Matthew used the rubber band and creatively attached the handle securely around the bottom of the bucket so it was stable and the handle wouldn't be able to fall off. With the extra materials, they had the idea of transforming their bucket into a peacock using a barely-inflated balloon as a head, and all of the Popsicle sticks and extra pipe cleaners as tail feathers fanning out from the opposite side.

As they hung the bucket and filled it, Sarah was the narrator telling a creative story about this peacock and how it came to be in this room and its adventures with bugs so the judges were entertained while the rest of the team completed their task. Their bucket didn't drop a single grain of rice or drop of water. Hurray!

Afterwards the students were allowed to go talk about it in the chill out room. They told me they thought they had done a terrible job because a few times they weren't verbally encouraging each other very often. They thought that they weren't positive enough in their affirmation of each team member but I thought they did a remarkable job and congratulated them soundly.

After the stress of instant challenge was over we could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. There were never-ending parties to attend, a fun geocaching adventure to go on throughout campus, and a movie party in the World's Fair Park that night.

The 'theater' was a massive screen in the park that played a robot documentary and Big Hero 6 while multiple catering companies provided more food than we could stand.

The next day was our main challenge.


This is where we performed our eight minute performance in front of judges. Before we could perform we need to repair our props that had been slightly damaged in the trip across the country. It was really hard to tear ourselves away from all the fun activities around campus and go hide in the Prop Room with glue guns and duct tape and paint for the morning. The children are not very excited to spend hours working on their set pieces instead of playing, but it was necessary. The Prop Room was a huge ballroom packed with the backdrops and props from hundreds of teams. It was rather tightly-packed and difficult to make a work space. We finally found an outlet (a loose one- see Matt's important job of holding the plug in place?) and got to work. It was neat to be surrounded with so many creative projects from other teams and see what ideas they had, and it was fun to hear so many different languages from the international teams. It was loud and chaotic, but so interesting.

We rushed through the repairs as quickly as possible and unfortunately some crisis happened as we didn't have the supplies we needed some times for unexpected repairs. Thankfully the other teams in the prop room were very positive and friendly and there was a lot of sharing supplies. The feeling inside the Prop Room was not competitive at all.

People were stressed about their performances but they were positive and encouraging to each other. The children could hardly eat anything for lunch they were so nervous about their performance scheduled that afternoon. We were a ball of nerves preparing for their performance. They were having a tough time taking things seriously during our rehearsal, and -boy!- was that frustrating!

Luckily our announcer was the best announcer on campus. He has quite the reputation and is often used as the example on how to be an entertaining announcer. He did such a great job joking with the kids helping them to laugh and smile and put them in and get rid of some of their jitters before going on stage. His personality was exactly what are students needed today.

They pulled off their performance without a flaw and received great applause afterwards.

It was such a relief to finally have it over and get to play the rest of the days Global Finals. After the performance finished they were able to do the dumpster party, where the teams throw away all the props they spent months working on. There is a lot of laughter and cheering and exhilaration as we are finally done for the year. This was so fun for them.

Ironically the wooden post on our bean stock backdrop had been falling over regularly the entire year. The students had been reattaching it prior to every competition because it just kept detaching. And now when it was time to destroy it, the children couldn't get it off! We had a good laugh as they kept tugging with no success.

 After this the rest of the week was just play time. Here are some glimpses from huge Expo we enjoyed:

We helped sort  thousands of books for a non-profit organization that stocks libraries in poor areas.

We played with a lot of fun technology. Most booths were hosted by tech companies or tech organizations, like NASA. There were so. many. robots. 

 The free photo booth was definitely one of our favorite spots. We played with this for ages.

 Here is a glimpse of our team interview for television. You can check out the video here.
It was such a treat to have that experience!