Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Emperor's New, Hypothetical DI Challenge

Several years ago, my older sister started dating a guy. They got serious about each other.

When she came home from college that summer, she spent much of her time planning a "hypothetical" wedding. "Hypothetically speaking," she told Mom, "If Greg and I got married around the middle of August of 1998, in the Orlando temple, and we used the Gainesville Chapel for a reception..."

After several weeks of this, I quipped that at her wedding reception, she would be standing in the receiving line when a child would suddenly blurt out, "But, Mother! The bride is only wearing a hypothetical gown!"

Well, I've been talking about a highly hypothetical DI team for a few weeks now. Tonight we had the first meeting, and I'm starting to think it might become a reality.

One of Renae's warm-up activities involved making clothes out of pipe cleaners. At least, that's what I thought I heard. So. A bunch of kids who all want to do things "My way" and struggle with group work. A hypothetical team. Imaginary clothes. It all fits together...

For the meeting, I prepared a handout. If you didn't make it to the meeting, here is a copy, subjected to blogger's idiotic formatting, below:

Destination Imagination: Hypothetical Team
I (Gail) have no idea what I’m doing. Mercifully, 1) Merinda Cutler knows what she’s doing, 2) she is willing to offer some mentoring, and 3) I learn quickly.

Unfortunately, I can also be extremely distracted and disorganized. Blame the babies.
All quotes are from Merinda Cutler, unless I specify otherwise.

I. Goals/Vision:  DI is about kids thinking outside of the box, acquiring skills, practicing teamwork, and solving problems creatively, while also budgeting their time and resources. It is supposed to be fun. It is also supposed to be kid-driven. I believe it fosters attitudes of risk-taking, lifelong learning, independence, and imagination which will serve our kids well in a globalized economy.  This means we parents need to sit back and let the kids make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. We can ask questions, but not take over. Parents must sign a non-interference pledge. 
My opinion: If we, the parents, start obsessing about winning tournaments rather than enjoying the process, we are probably doing something wrong. I am naturally competitive, but will try to restrain myself. Plus I have no desire to go to state this year. Too complicated. Too messy. Too much stress. Too expensive.  Maybe next year. Most of the time I roll my eyes at clich├ęd statements like “everyone’s a winner.” In this case, I agree with it. If other parents have different goals, I am happy to consider them.

II. Age: A team competes at the level of its highest-grade member. So if we had  all third- and fourth-graders, the team would compete against other “fourth-grade” teams. If we had two second-graders, two third-graders, two fourth-graders, and a single fifth-grader, the team would compete against other fifth-grade teams.

III. Managers: Merinda suggests dividing the parental responsibilities several ways, so that no one parent feels overwhelmed. Some possible roles include:
Main Manager.  Prepares instant challenges and debriefs the team afterwards.  Merinda says, “This person does not need to be an expert in DI or management. All this person must do is commit to meet with their team once a week for about an hour and attend one 4-hour training on a Saturday (Oct. 13, Oct. 27, OR Nov. 4) and the tournament all day on Saturday, March 2nd. Your team is expected to work independently of adults (they actually get docked points if they don't), so you don't have to be super creative or innovative. You just need to prepare simple materials for your team to practice instant challenges, be there to help keep your team on task, and give objective feedback as needed.”
At the moment, I seem to be the main team manager. I would be happy to cede this role to someone else. Any volunteers? If not, remember that you didn’t want the job, either, and be merciful in judging me.

Co-Manager.  “Not essential, but highly recommended. This person is there to support the manager as needed—training is not required, but certainly would be helpful. This person might be in charge of making sure all the team's paperwork is in order and submitted on time.” (S)he could also help with crowd control. Most of us have toddlers, so whoever ends up running and debriefing the meetings each week could almost certainly use someone else to help babysit the younger kids.

Location/Transportation Manager. I am willing to volunteer my home as a meeting space. If, however, we can’t meet her one week, a location manager could be in charge of making other arrangements. Reserving a room at the library, perhaps, and also co-ordinating carpools. Also making arrangements for field trips to visit experts for special training.
Appraisers.  “Each team must provide TWO appraisers for the tournament or pay a fee to hire them. If you choose to do this, you must attend the training on Sat, Feb 9th and attend the tournament all day on March 2nd.” I note the appraiser could be a husband. Also that they would not end up judging their own children.
Materials Manager.  Your team will need a lot of found items and some purchased supplies to complete their Central Challenge and practice Instant Challenges. So start collecting extra things around your house like cardboard boxes, paints, craft supplies, office supplies, scrap wood, PVC pipe, drinking straws, rubber bands, mailing labels, paper clips, etc. Most of the practice instant challenges your team will do when they practice will require a few random items that can usually be found around the house. It's very helpful to have someone on your team to gather and/or purchase these materials for you.”

Renae also pointed out that if the kids make big, bulky props, they would need to be stored somewhere. And transported to the tournament.

Merinda had a gallon Ziploc bag of twisty ties, clips, clothespins, and other random things. I have been making a collection for the last several weeks rather than throw out, say, old plastic jars. Any volunteers to collate and cart around all of this?

Snack Manager. Everybody wants to be the snack manager. Show up at the end, distribute crackers or cookies, collect your own kid(s), and flee the chaos. Sadly, we can’t all be snack managers. Ah well.

IV. Schedule: Once I have registered a team, I will receive a nifty timeline with suggestions for intermediate goals and “you should really start working on this item now.”

Most DI teams meet for 60 to 90 minutes per week, possibly going up to 120 minutes as they approach the year-end tournament.

The regional competition will be on Saturday, March 2nd, in Dripping Springs, approximately a one-hour drive to the southwest.  Merinda says, “Make sure your team members all know that on this day they will be doing NOTHING but Destination Imagination in Dripping Springs. They won't be competing all day, but they need to be available all day because the schedules aren't set until just before the tournament. If they can't come on this day, they should drop out now.”

V. Costs:  I quote from
Membership Fee
(Purchased at

Individual memberships (1 team) cost $135.
Tournament Registration Fee
$40 per team
Also, each team has to supply 2 volunteers who will be appraisers at the tournament; there is a judge penalty fee of $100 per appraiser if you do not supply the volunteers.

Team Solution Supplies

$50 - $300
This varies depending on the challenge.  Most challenges have a cost limit.  A reasonable rule of thumb is that a team might spend twice the cost limit for the challenge.  However, a technical team may spend more than this as they construct and discard different possible solutions.  It is also possible that a team may take a minimalist approach and solve the challenge with very few purchased materials.  (Years ago there was a team that placed well at finals who basically had no costumes and whose only props were a ladder and a plastic flower).

Note that the cost limit only applies to materials that are actually presented as part of the team’s solution.  A team may build something that costs $30.  IF they do not use it for their solution it does not count against the cost limit but you have still spent the $30.  Other items are exempt items for the cost limit (such as batteries).  You spend the money but it doesn't count against the cost limit of the challenge. 

The Improv Challenge (Challenge D) has no cost limit but rather has a specific list of materials that the team may bring with them to the tournament. 

Most of my past teams spent around $20 - $25 per team member. I encouraged them to find items around their houses and transform those objects instead of buying new items.
 Instant Challenge Supplies

This can vary greatly by team.  Most ICs require items that are commonly around the house:  paper, paperclips, paper plates, duct tape, straws, etc.  You can also ask parents to donate specific supplies you need for Instant Challenge. 


 Other than your vehicle expenses for taking the team around, there are generally no travel expenses associated with the regional tournament.

I am estimating a total of around $400 for the entire team, for the year. That would be divided by the number of children on the team. My lowball estimate is $200 and my highest estimate is $550.

If we had five kids on a team, that would come to between $40 and $110. If we go with my middle estimate, it would be around $80 per kid for the entire year.
1)      If it’s too much, talk to me. I’ll try to work with you.
2)      DI is supposed to be low budget. One of the beautiful things is that you’re encouraged to use everyday items in creative ways. Also that rich kids should not receive an unfair advantage because they splurge on the newest robotic set. A budgetary upper cap helps to level the playing field.
3)      I would be willing to set a team limit. For instance, if we did the torque challenge, we could agree on a maximum our team would spend, even if it was under the maximum allowed by the rules.

In my opinion, if we spend more than $100 per child for the entire year, we've gone seriously wrong. I expect $50 per kid is a much more reasonable amount, especially if we put a strict cap on our challenge budget. Again, I'll work with you.

VI. Format/Assessment: I quote from
How will Teams be Assessed at the Tournament?
At the tournament, Destination Imagination teams will solve two types of Challenges: Team Challenges and Instant Challenges. Teams will perform their Challenge solutions to a group of Appraisers. Destination Imagination Appraisers are local volunteers who have been trained to assess the Challenges.
What is a Team Challenge?
There are seven new Challenges to choose from each year. The areas of focus include: Technical, Scientific, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Structural and Service Learning. There is also a non-competitive Early Learning Challenge. View our current season’s Challenge previews on our website.
The Team Challenge is the combination of the Central Challenge and Team Choice Elements. After solving Team Challenges, teams can attend tournaments to showcase their solutions in front of Appraisers and live audiences.
Central Challenge
The Central Challenge encourages development of critical thinking, problem solving techniques, teamwork, and creative process over a sustained period of time (usually 2 to 4 months).
Team Choice Elements
Team Choice Elements are team-selected elements that are incorporated with the Central Challenge to allow creative freedom in showcasing additional strengths.
What is an Instant Challenge?
Instant Challenges require teams to engage in quick, creative and critical thinking.
At a tournament, a team will receive an Instant Challenge and the materials with which to solve it. The team members must think on their feet by applying appropriate skills to produce a solution in a period of just 5 to 8 minutes.
In a world with growing cultural connections, increased levels and types of communication, and a new need for real-time teamwork and problem solving, the ability to solve problems quickly is becoming increasingly critical.
Instant Challenges are performance-based, task-based, or a combination of the two. Although each Instant Challenge has different requirements, all Instant Challenges reward teams for their teamwork. Instant Challenges are kept confidential until the day of the Tournament.

VII. Challenges: It’s okay to wait a few months before deciding which challenge the team will attempt. In the meantime, teams can work on practicing instant challenges, building teamwork, and investigating their options.
This year’s challenges: (I quote from

 Your vehicles are cranked and ready to tell their story. Will you push it, play it safe, or take the big risk? Just make sure you get In the Zone!
Points of Interest
- Present a story about the dangers faced by vehicles, told from the point of view of one or more vehicles
- Design and build small vehicles that are able to reliably and accurately travel specific distances
- Use at least three different power sources for the vehicles

 Art can begin with a flick of the wrist, but can it ride on the wind? If you take on this Challenge, you will imagine a character so light and airy that it could slip, slide and sail away!
Points of Interest
- Explore how the science of wind energy can be used to make kinetic art move
- Design and create kinetic art that moves during the presentation
- Create and present an original story that features an invisible visitor
- Integrate wind energy research into the story

 With the right camouflage, you can become anyone or anything. Superheroes and chameleons change themselves every day! Who will you be when you take the mask away?
Points of Interest
- Present a team-created story about a character that uses a disguise
- Use only non-verbal theatrical techniques to present the story
- Design and construct at least two masks that enhance the story

 The world has undergone a dramatic change overnight! OK team, grab some T-shirts and markers and see if you can make sense of this Change in RealiTee!
Points of Interest
- Create a 5-minute improv skit about life after a dramatic change and how the characters adapt to this change  
- Learn about different communication techniques and integrate one into the skit
- Use only white t-shirts, washable markers and team members to create all costumes, sets and props      
- Create a slogan from three randomly selected nouns

 Let’s do the twist! It goes like this: Build a structure that can survive a serious hit while holding weight. That’s what we are torqueing about!
Points of Interest
- Build a structure made entirely of glue and materials the team chooses from a list
- Test the structure by placing weights on it, and by subjecting it to torque-inducing impacts
- Produce a list the materials used in your structure, and provide samples of these materials
- Produce a prop or costume made of all the materials used in the structure
- Tell a story about something or someone that causes an unexpected twist or surprising change

 LIGHTS: Find a community need.
CAMERA: Solve the problem the best way you can!
ACTION: Then unveil your documentary film to a captivated audience.
Points of Interest
- Use collaborative problem solving tools to identify and select at least one real community need
- Design and carry out a project to address the real community need
- Create a movie that documents the project
- Evaluate the project and prepare a thorough project review
- Prepare for a live press conference

 Instant Challenges require teams to engage in quick, creative and critical thinking. At a tournament, a team will receive an Instant Challenge and the materials with which to solve it. The team members must think on their feet by applying appropriate skills to produce a solution in a period of just five to eight minutes.
In a world with growing cultural connections, increased levels and types of communication, and a new need for real-time teamwork and problem solving, the ability to solve problems quickly is becoming increasingly critical.
Instant Challenges are performance-based, task-based, or a combination of the two. Although each Instant Challenge has different requirements, all Instant Challenges reward teams for their teamwork and the creativity of their solutions. Instant Challenges are kept confidential until the day of the Tournament.


Brian Thomas said...

Might I encourage you to just go all the way and imagine the entire tournament? You wouldn't have to travel at all, even for nationals -- the IDI (Imagined Destination Imagination) events planning committee would decide, conveniently, to host the event in your living room! (Of all the places!)

Gregory said...

Hypothetically, I am still very much in love with your sister. At some point you have to chase your dreams and make them real.

Carolyn said...

You know, you would score very high on the creativity factors if for the actual dramatic presentation the kids stood up in unison and said "Our device is so impressive, we do not wish to detract from it with excessive drama. Therefore, we will spend the balance of the time letting you imagine our hypothetical skit." *stand in dead silence for 5 minutes*

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