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DI mentor learns from team

June 06, 2006|by CAROLINE ROSENTHAL

I have been on a Destination ImagiNation team for the past three years. This year, we were blessed to compete in the Global Tournament.

I could go on and on about how Destination ImagiNation has changed me and helped me grow. Instead I would like to share with you a story about a fifth-grade, first-time Destination ImagiNation team, a team that initially I wanted to inspire. As it turned out, the team inspired me.

At 14 years old and in search of community-service hours for school, I decided to help a fifth-grade DI team, composed of my brother Michael Rosenthal, Morgan Bartha, Aaron Snook, Josh Semler, Peter Reiter and Addison Starliper. I told them a bit about the DI program and how to approach the challenges presented in the program and shared some of my experiences with DI.

Each year, DI organizers publish four or five challenges, each with multiple parts. Teams meet weekly throughout the school year to sharpen problem-solving skills and creative solutions to the DI challenge they've selected.

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My brother's team - the Magic 7 - finally decided on the challenge called Inside DImensions. This challenge involved a structure and a skit, among other things. The team needed to build two structures - one to fit inside the other - that were 7 1/2 inches to 9 inches tall, and weighed no more than 14 grams when puttogether (about the weight of a pen). This combined structure would need to support as much weight as possible and be incorporated into a skit about an architect's contribution to society.

My brother's team was not focused. Instead of working on the challenge, team members would goof off, tell jokes and stories about their day at school, talk about the previous night's sports game - anything but their challenge. When they did discuss their challenge, rather than share ideas, team members argued.

Results from the Magic 7's regional competition in Gaithersburg, Md., were not very pretty. The weight-bearing 14-gram structures collapsed on the testing board before a single weight was put on. The group was told its architect - the team had picked a naked mole rat, which digs tunnel burrows - needed to be a human.

However, because it met the borderline criteria for its challenge and it was the only elementary team in the division to do this challenge, the team moved on to state-level competition. But to compete at the state level, everything needed to change - and the Magic 7 had only six short weeks.

That night, my brother walked through the door with a look of pure determination.

Over the next weeks, he spent a great deal of time on the computer, researching, brainstorming and talking with his DI teammates. When I saw the team a couple of weeks after the regional tournament, I hardly recognized them. They were working together - listening to each other, encouraging each other. It was like a whole new team!

They found and thoroughly researched a new architect and completely changed their sets, costumes, script and structure. Six weeks later, at states, everything about the Magic 7 was different. Its structure held 325 pounds. Its architect was a real person, George Heins, designer of the original New York subway. Its eight-minute skit had incredible sets - depicting the New York Subway with a sheet and a coat rack, made chandeliers out of a salad bowl and beads, stained glass skylights out of Hershey's Kisses wrappers. Behind the set, the team used Christmas lights that lit up to look like chandeliers and train lights. It even had train sounds.

The result: The team placed first at the Maryland State elementary level.

Although team members were ecstatic at their placement, they were just as happy at their accomplishment in solving this challenge together as a team. They started out with nothing and ended up qualifying to compete in global finals in Knoxville, Tenn.

My own team, Mind Busters (with Alex Bartha, Courtney Peterson, Emily Steiner, Mary McGinley and Justin Winslow), also qualified for global finals.

But the day we were to leave, I had a 103-degree fever and was diagnosed with strep throat. The doctor told me I was not to travel for 24 hours, and I thought to myself, "That's it! I can't do this!" Then I thought about my brother's team and its determination, even when things looked bad. Immediately, I thought, "I can do this."

At the Global Tournament, there were more than 20,000 people with teams from 14 countries. The Magic 7 performed before my team, but they had problems. Their structure had a malfunction and was unable to hold weight.

With so many people in the audience, my teammates and I were nervous before our performance. But we did OK.

Because I was still not feeling well, I did not attend the closing ceremonies. I was with Michael and his team when I found out my team won first place.

My brother threw his arms around me and said "Way to go, Caroline! You are the best in the world!" His team members gave me high-fives.

I looked at them and thought, "It's because of you guys that I'm here." They inspired me.

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