The Zionsville West Middle School students of the Destination Imagination team had to create and overcome obstacles to make it to the global finals, and finished 27th out of 69 teams. Team members are Alvin Burns, Nat Hill, Lauren Phillips, Eric Ruterbories, Sarah Thompson and Riley White.

“It was a great first experience for this group at the global (competition),” co-coach Sharon Stamper Thompson said.

For the Destination Imagination competition, the team creates an obstacle course and a vehicle to go through this obstacle course. The competition requires participants to use both sides of the brain — the left, logical-thinking side and the right, emotional-feeling side. They must also produce a non-verbal play that mimics the moves of the obstacle course. The ZWMS team chose “Chasing the Pink Panther” as its theme.

The vehicle climbs up walls and goes through tunnels looking for the Pink Panther, while the actors put on a play in which they are looking for the Pink Panther. Fifth-grader Lauren Phillips, who is the Pink Panther, said her favorite part of the whole competition is when she pops out from behind the tree and surprises everyone who has been looking for her.

To make the vehicle climb walls, the ZWMS team attached Velcro to the robot’s wheels and to the walls. In the process of their work, they learned about speed, power and torque. At first, the robot was too fast to climb walls. So the team used gearing to give the robot more power. Then they learned power trumped speed.

One of the obstacles is jumping over a gap. With the fast vehicle, they could just jump it, but the slow, powerful one couldn’t make it. Fifth-grader David Lin said he came up with idea of using a lifting body to get over the gap, but it didn’t work and they decided to not use it.

“That was totally stupid,” he said.

The competition is designed to encourage creativity, and Stamper Thompson said she thought a lot of that at the global finals.

“We have seen more things created with duct tape than we ever knew possible,” she said.

Team co-manager Ken Ruterbories said Destination Imagination is great for students who want to participate in team competitions, but are not into sports or band. This competition is for people who like to build things.

However, some people found out they had hidden talents. One of the students is great at the acting part of the competition, Ruterbories said, but would have never known he had this talent and should be in all the school plays, he said.

What the kids have accomplished has surprised him, he said.

“It really stretches them,” he said.

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