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Students will compete in global competition
CREATIVE — Students at Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls designed this wooden structure, made with only wood and glue, and presented it as their challenge during the state and regional Destination ImagiNation™ competitions in March, winning first place at both competitions. In May, the students will compete in the global competition in Tennessee, where they hope to beat their record of the structure holding 635 pounds.
MECHANIC FALLS — This May, second- and third-grade students from the Elm Street School will compete in a global competition, Destination ImagiNation™, in Knoxville, TN, where they will challenge themselves intellectually, creatively and as a team, says Genevieve Ricard, RSU 16 district coordinator.
The competition will be held May 23-26.
According to its website, Destination ImagiNation™ is "the world's largest non-profit volunteer-driven organization devoted to helping kids gain practical life skills through interesting, entertaining and mind-boggling challenges."
Ricard, also a volunteer team manager, said the program is all about "creativity, teamwork, and leadership. It's really about students gaining a sense of self, gaining a sense of teamwork, and really promoting their own special talents and abilities."
Teams are made up of between two and seven students, from pre-K through the university level. Ricard said that the students choose their own challenge, and then work for months to master it.
The challenges, said Ricard, are mechanical, scientific, creative arts, improvisational and structural in nature.
According to Ricard, parents, teachers or other volunteers can facilitate the group, but are not allowed to give technical or other assistance.
"I cannot stress enough that it is 100 percent child-solved," said Ricard. "Parents, team managers, cannot interfere in any way. My job as the team manager is strictly to make sure they don't hurt themselves, and help them find resources. But they do all the work — the research, the creation, and the building — 100 percent on their own."
Ricard said that her group, made up of seven kids, chose the structural challenge. During this challenge, the kids designed a structure made completely of wood and glue, that had to weigh less than 75 grams, but "had to hold as much weight as possible," said Ricard.
Height-wise, said Ricard, the structure had to be 7.5 to 9 inches tall, and could not, in any direction, be longer than 10 inches.
The team conducted extensive testing before deciding on the best type of wood and glue, for strength and weight, said Ricard. Students tested 15 different glues and a variety of woods. "They also learned different concepts of physics, like the density of wood, and how, the wider the structure, the more weight it could hold," she said.
For the structure, students chose basswood and Gorilla Glue, said Ricard.
Teams presented their solutions at regional and state tournaments. Ricard's team, the structure team, competed at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on March 17, and again on March 31 at the University of Maine at Orono, and won first place at both competitions.
"It's able to hold 635 pounds," said Ricard, of the wooden structure built by the children. "It held 18 golfballs. After each weight they placed there, they were allowed to put a golfball inside the structure. They get more points for every ball they put in."
The first time the team tested their structure, Ricard said that it held 425 pounds.
"The impressive part," said Ricard, "is that fact that they built something that held 635 pounds." In addition, the students had to design a device that would deliver the golfballs, and then had to write an eight-minute skit about what they were doing, said Ricard.
The other Elm Street team, made up of four students, chose the technical challenge, where they had to design and build equipment that retrieves parts and delivers products, said Ricard. This team also won first at OHCHS, and second during the challenge in Orono, she said.
"The first two teams get the opportunity to go and compete on the world stage," said Ricard.
Ricard also teaches early childhood education at OHCHS, and leads an extra-curricular Destination ImagiNation™ program.
"We are in a declining AYP [adequate yearly progress] era right now, where a lot of schools aren't meeting AYP," said Ricard. "My experience is, that the students that aren't meeting AYP are the students that are having trouble with a lot of the skills that Destination ImagiNation™ teaches."
At the world competition, said Ricard, there is no real goal weight in mind. "We just want to see it break," she said. "The kids just want to see it break. They want to know much it will hold. We hope that it will beat 1,000 [pounds]. That would be fantastic — but it wasn't even shaking at 635."
Ricard said that the school is currently trying to raise $20,000 to send the students, parents, and chaperones to the competition in Tennessee. So far, said Ricard, nearly $10,000 has been raised.
If more than $20,000 is raised, Ricard said that the money will go toward future groups.
Also, on April 27, everyone is welcome to attend Community Day from 4-10 p.m. at the Elm Street School gym, where there will be free food, carnival games, auction items, a 50/50 raffle and other activities.
An account has also been set up at the Maple Street Redemption Center in Mechanic Falls so people can donate cans toward the cause.
If you prefer to mail a check, make the check payable to: RSU 16 Destination Imagination, and please mail directly to the school.