SHERIDAN — Students from around Wyoming are gathering today at Sheridan Junior High School to compete in the Destination Imagination State Tournament.
Though Sheridan area students have competed in the program since the 1990s, this is the first time the state tournament has been held in Sheridan.
There are at least 325 students representing more than 20 Wyoming schools at the tournament, with 16 teams being comprised of Sheridan area students.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and it is empowering students,” said Marci McChesney, who began her involvement with DI when she was a teacher with SCSD1 in the 1990s. “They learn the skills of working in a group and they also learn creative problem solving skills.”
Students compete in teams of five to seven members, in one of six categories. The categories are technology, theatrical, a theatrical and technology combination, the improv challenge, the structure challenge and project outreach. McChesney said the students often begin preparations for their tournament before Christmas.
McChesney said the students are encouraged to come up with creative solutions to the problem presented in each category. For instance, in the project outreach category, teams must study a specific problem in their community and then brainstorm possible solutions.
Imagination and creativity also come into play in the theatrical and technology combination category. In this competition, students have to choose and study an “extreme environment” that exists in our universe. Then, as part of the theatrical portion, they must develop characters that live in this extreme environment and develop a short skit. On the technology end, they have to create gear or equipment that these characters might use to exist in such a punishing environment. At the competition, they have just eight minutes to present their environment and the characters that inhabit it, all on a theatrical set of their own design.
“They spend four or five months coming up with their solution and their extreme gear and costuming, backdrop, props and set,” McChesney explained. “And they have to build it, adults or their parents can’t build it for them. It is their work.”
In addition to competition in one of the six categories, for which they have months to prepare, each team also competes in an “instant challenge” in which the team is presented with a problem or situation.
They have just five minutes to work together to prepare the answer and then have five minutes to give their presentation in front of judges known as appraisers.
“It is pretty cool to see what they can come up with it,” McChesney said about the competition, which she believes helps students develop lifelong problem solving skills. “What I think is amazing, is that some kids who were on a team in 1993, they look at life in a different way. They look at a problem as something to come up with a solution for. They look at it as a way to use their creativity to solve the problem. It is pretty awesome.”
Students who take first place in any of the categories will then qualify for the national tournament in Knoxville, Tenn., in May, where they will compete against 20,000 other students. McChesney said that Sheridan County students are no strangers to the national competition.
“My first team that got to go was in 1993 and we’ve gone every year since then,” she said. “And School District 2 has sent people almost every year also. So we’ve been well represented there.”
The tournament begins at 8 a.m. and will continue until at least 3 p.m. McChesney said the event is free and members of the public are welcome to attend.