RANCHESTER — Imagination can take a person anywhere. For 12 students in Sheridan County School District 1, it will take them across the country next month.

Two teams from Tongue River schools advanced to the Destination Imagination Global Finals May 23-26 in Knoxville, Tennessee, after placing first at the state competition Feb. 24 in Casper.

Destination Imagination is a worldwide nonprofit organization that offers students the chance to solve different challenges outside of the classroom.

A team composed of seven eighth-grade girls — named Sassy Cupcakes  — from Tongue River Middle School took first in the fine arts challenge, which includes singing, acting and building props.

Another team — DI Techs — of five fourth-grade boys from Tongue River Elementary School took first in the technical challenge. The team had to design a structure that weighed less than 0.38 pounds and could hold 150 pounds of weights, as well as write and perform a play.

The students will now take their winning challenge from the state competition to Globals. Most of the students have gone to the Global Finals previously. The trip is a total of six days, and the students stay in dorm rooms at the University of Tennessee. More than 8,000 students from all 50 states and at least 15 different countries will take part in the Global Finals.

The Tongue River students are in the midst of fundraising for the trip to Tennessee, which includes talking to the SCSD1 board of trustees about what they learned; attending different community events and asking for donations; and serving coffee at the Equestrian Center on Mother’s Day. They had a spaghetti dinner and community fundraiser last week at the Tongue River Valley Community Center.

Ann Powers, SCSD1 technology instructional facilitator and DI coordinator for the past six years, has had at least one team qualify for Globals ever year. In addition to competing in Tennessee, the students will go to Dollywood and attend different workshops and exhibits, like a zero-gravity ride sponsored by NASA.

Powers’ children participated in DI, so she has been involved for more than 20 years. Powers oversees everything and organizes travel logistics. However, neither Powers nor the team managers — who are parent volunteers this year — can directly help students with their challenges.

“They can teach skills,” Powers said. “Before [students] choose the challenge, [managers] can teach how to sew, how to use lumber, how to use drills.”

The girls team made a wooden set that moved and had anchor braces to help its mobility.

“They learned the skills and then they decided to make the set,” Powers said.

The creative process began in October, with students usually practicing once per week after school and more often as the state contest approached. Performances last five to eight minutes and are judged in a few different areas, including creativity, teamwork and team choice elements, which are two things the students thought were unique about their performance.

Before the competition, students are given a sheet with a few general bullet points to include in their performance and then decide their specific plan. They felt prepared but were a bit nervous going into their presentations.

“You might be nervous before it starts, but once you get into performing, it all goes really fast and you stop thinking about people watching you,” eighth-grader Zia Robbins said. “You’re just thinking about your script.”

For one of their team choice elements, the girls team showcased a banjo they created out of cardboard and rubber bands.

“It had mild note effectiveness,” Robbins said. “But it did make noise and worked like a banjo would.”

The students enjoy the different aspects of DI because it is more performative and creative than their daily classes.

“Skills you learn here you can translate over into your normal life,” Robbins said. “It helps you do better at performing or it might help you do better at public speaking.”

Fourth-grader Isaac Fritz said the best part was working as a team to solve the different challenges.

Eighth-grader Kadie Brown agreed.

“Our teamwork really improved and it’s shown up in our day-to-day activities,” Brown said. “Knowing that they’re going to be there for us if we mess up on our script, they’re going to help get us back on track, that was really nice.”

The students were pleasantly surprised with the success.

“When they announced us as the winners, it was pretty amazing to see everything we worked for pay off, and we were really proud of each other,” Robbins said.

The students also designed T-shirts that they wear during competition and made pins to wear to Globals that they can trade with teams from other states and countries.

“You can collect from every state if you want, or you can just try and get ones that are cool,” Robbins said. “It’s really fun because you get to meet new people and you get to see all those cool designs.”

 All it takes is a little imagination.