Orono Challengers tops in DI

Posted June 06, 2011, at 7:59 p.m.

ORONO — A 10-foot replica of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge next to Fort Knox State Park helped a group of Orono Middle School students take first place in their division in the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals May 25-28 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Call it the tower that grew. The height was 6 feet in the regional challenge, 8 feet in the state challenge and then 10 feet in the Global Finals.

The Dashing Incredible Challengers of Orono Middle School competed against 70 other teams in Middle Level Challenge A, “Unidentified Moving Objects,” their fourth trip to the DI Global Finals.

For Lily Koffman, Jake Koffman, Emma Peterson, Emily Noyes, Anna Webber and Katie Sypher, the challenge was to build a device that could move objects from the top of a tower to the bottom, and objects at the bottom to the top — without the use of their hands or electricity, and without standing on another object. The objects were in a pool of water at the bottom of the tower for the Global Finals challenge.

In addition, the students developed and performed a skit in the form of a sales presentation about their device. Their scenario involved saving people trapped at the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge as well as “victims” in the river.

They built a to-scale replica of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge that was incorporated into the skit — all within an eight-minute time limit. Also included in the scoring was their performance in an “Instant Challenge,” in which they were presented with a problem to solve. The Challengers received 95 out of a possible 100 points for this part of their challenge.

The Orono youngsters competed with teams from all over the world and also served as a “Buddy” team with a team from Singapore. The students watched each other’s performances, ate together and became fast friends in just a few days. They plan to stay in touch by email and Facebook.

The youngsters have been involved in DI since third grade and had scored as high as 12th place at previous Global Finals. Their goal for this trip was a top 10 finish.

The six team members said they were “thrilled” with their first place finish, especially since they had decided to take a break from DI next year, anticipating that their activities as they enter high school would make them too busy to continue.

The team has been coached the entire time by Dave Koffman and Scott Peterson, and the members said they were grateful for their leadership. The team held many fundraising activities to earn money to get to Global Finals, also receiving assistance from the Old Town-Orono Kiwanis and RSU 26.

Destination ImagiNation is a global organization that strives to showcase teamwork and cooperative problem-solving. For more information, visit http://destinationimagination.org or the Maine chapter at http://createme.org.

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