31 Teams Take First Place at Global Finals 2017

By: Tina Shaffer

In May, a record 1,470 Destination Imagination teams from 17 countries gathered in Knoxville, Tennessee to participate in Global Finals—the world’s largest celebration of creativity and the culminating event of every Destination Imagination (DI) season. Teams at Global Finals had the opportunity to showcase their solutions to one of six STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) DI Challenges, which they worked on for several months prior.

In addition to showcasing their innovative solutions on the international stage, teams that attended Global Finals had the opportunity to interact with students from around the world, learn about innovative technology from industry experts including NASA and Ford STEAM Experience, and strengthen their 21st century skills through hands-on workshops.

Thanks to some of our top-placing Global Finals teams and Team Managers, you can read about the Challenge solutions that helped them take top honors at the international tournament.

To learn more about Global Finals, click here.

Service Learning Challenge (Ready, Willing & Fable)

For the Service Learning Challenge, teams had to identify, design, plan and carry out a project that addresses a real community need. Teams had to create a live presentation of a team-created fable that integrated information about the project, as well as include an impact prop and a character that changes appearance. In addition, teams had to create and present two Team Choice Elements that showed of their interests, skills, areas of strength, and talents.

Team Name: Tie DI Locks
DI Affiliate: Texas
Level: Elementary
Team Members: Loren F., Eleni P., Rylee O., Mira R., Laila M., Keira B., and Kendall H.
Team Managers: Stephany McDougal and Wendi Britt

Synopsis: The team chose to raise awareness by collecting 540 inches of hair and $963 for the Children with Hair Loss (CWHL) organization. The team researched facts about the organization to put into their skit. CWHL is an organization that collects hair that is colored or dyed and has to be healthy. Each child will receive a new wig every year until their 21st birthday. The team brought in cosmetology students from Monterey High School in Lubbock, Texas to cut students’ and parents’ hair during the school day. The team worked hard to bring recognition to the children with hair loss.

In order to complete their Challenge, they had to write a fable while integrating the project within the presentation (skit). The characters were a Chippo who was half hippo and half Chihuahua, a witch who had a disorder, and four hairy fairies who were collecting hair for children with hair loss. In the beginning of the fable, the Chippo didn’t want to donate her hair to the hairy fairies. A witch (who had alopecia) came along and stole her locks. Once the Chippo discovered that the witch was just girl who had alopecia, she had a change of heart and realized that many people around the world struggle with hair loss. The four hairy fairies donated their hair to the Chippo and made her a wig. Throughout the story, the Chippo learned to be giving and selfless and the witch learned that beauty is on the inside.

*Interesting fact about the team: Out of the seven team members and two coaches, five of them donated at least eight inches of hair to the Children with Hair Loss organization.

Check out their winning performance below:


Team Name: #BC4L
DI Affiliate: Arkansas
Level: Middle
Team Members: Abby B., Austin D., Asher J., Whitley R. and Hannah S.
Team Managers: Teresa Jackson and Tasha Raney

For the past four years, team #BC4L from Greenbrier Jr. High has competed in the Service Learning Challenge. This year, they chose to help V.I.P. students at Wooster Elementary School. V.I.P. stands for Very Important Panthers. This team of five eighth graders knew their group was small but could make a difference with the help of their community. They reached out to the community to ask for clean, season-appropriate clothing. They collected 269 pounds of clothing. Sixty-six pounds of clothing was donated to the V.I.P. students and the rest was donated to the school’s clothes closet. The team also raised $736 by selling blankets and t-shirts. This money was used to provide V.I.P. students with opportunities outside of school. At the Regional, Affiliate, and Global competitions, the team had to present a team-created fable that integrated information about their project. In their fable, two bees, a rabbit and a woodpecker worked together to meet the needs of a wilted flower. During their eight-minute fable presentation, the team not only shared what they had done to help the V.I.P. students but also revealed their fable moral: Believe you can make a difference even if others doubt you. The team chose to use a large flower pot as their impact prop during their project debriefing with Wooster principals, counselor and V.I.P. mentors. The flower pot was decorated with pictures representing the different pieces of their project and was symbolic of the opportunities for V.I.P. students. At the end of their fable presentation, there was no longer a wilted flower. She had made a visible change just in TIME!

Team Name: Panaviv (Arch of Color)
DI Affiliate: Pennsylvania
Level: Secondary
Team Members: Francesca M., Leah S., Maya S., Maggie C. and Regan S.
Team Managers: Scott Stoogenke

Synopsis: Their team-identified community consisted of the 300 million people in the world who have no shoes, which affects their ability to get jobs and go to school as well as making them susceptible to disease. In their fable, “The Tales of the Strawberry Woods,” a flightless bird and baker named Kiwi journeys through the Strawberry Woods to bring a basket of sweets to her friend, an old bunny named Minty. She meets a spider, Arabella, struggling to stay warm with only seven shoes. Realizing that she can help, she trades her basket for a shoe with Ambrose, a beaver and shoemaker. When she reaches Minty, she realizes she doesn’t have sweets but she thinks of a craft to fulfill Minty’s need for an activity while making the shoe more beautiful. Together, they paint the shoe and give it to Arabella. In return for her kindness, Arabella, Minty, and Ambrose craft Kiwi a pair of wings so she can fly. The story represents how the team sold baked goods to earn money to purchase plain shoes from Salvation Army. They then brought the shoes to a nursing home, where the residents could participate in the team’s activity to paint them. Finally, they donated the decorated shoes to Soles4Souls, a company that distributes shoes to the millions of people who need them in the world. The team’s impact prop was a spider web made of shoelaces to show that we are all interrelated and that by helping one community, we can help many.

Scientific Challenge (Top Secret)

For the Scientific Challenge, teams had to create and present a story about a secret mission and include a disguised character. The Challenge included researching, developing and applying methods from cryptography and steganography. They also had to design and create a gadget that appeared to be an everyday item. In addition, teams had to create and present two Team Choice Elements that showed of their interests, skills, areas of strength, and talents.

Team Name: Imperial Strikers
DI Affiliate: 
Team Members: Aaradhya A., Neeraj K., Harsha G. and Eugene S.
Team Managers: Yogesh Kulkarni and Volodymyr Sukhinin

Synopsis: Making their second appearance at the Global Finals count, Imperial Strikers not only team won the Renaissance award but also secured first place in their Team Challenge level.

Their story was set in an imaginary world called Foodtopolis, where everyone is a food. The main characters in the story were fresh spy recruits who were sent off to save the world from an encrypted and deadly virus. During their mission, they realize that they have been double crossed and then use steganography and cryptography to decrypt the virus. They also unveil the true identity of their teacher and his intentions to alter the world by killing all processed food. Their teacher was originally in a broccoli costume that was well hidden under an elaborately built burger costume made from a hula hoop, skewers and fabric pieces.

The team built their Pre-Crypted Message using an elaborate hardware Enigma style machine that was constructed with electronic components, including logic gates, resistors, diodes and switches. The team used the concept of binary mathematics to encrypt and decrypt using the one-time pad (OTP) encryption method. In addition to performing the encryption, the device also operated as a medical mixer that vended the virus and its antidote. This device was recognized by the Appraisers to be worthy of the Renaissance award.

The team built their Insta-Crypted Message using RSA cryptography methods. The encryption method uses ‘public key’ to encrypt the secret message and ‘private key’ to decrypt the message. The algorithm was developed in Scratch and had hundreds of lines of code to implement RSA using string processing, loops and math functions such as power, totient and mod.

The team’s gadget was a polaroid camera that also acted as a steganography device. The camera operation was built using a flashing LED and a motor-based roller design for printed picture. The emergency mode created an alarm and was constructed using logic gates and UV LED for steganography.

For their Team Choice Elements, the team designed an elaborate storybook backdrop that transitioned the settings of the story from the academy to the different cities in the food world. The team also designed elaborate costumes for its three main characters—a nerdy cookie, a sneaky cheese stick and a funny banana split.

This team’s tireless work paid off in the form of a detailed solution that showcased depth of research in cryptography and technical methods at every corner.

Team Name: No Pressure
DI Affiliate: California
Level: Middle
Team Members: Lana S., Shreya S., Macy C., Anura D., Jessica M., Sahil S. and Emme C.
Team Manager: Dan S.

The team decided to put a very unique twist on the Top Secret Scientific Challenge. Their story was about a middle school student who was trying to discover who he was (decrypt himself), without Peer Pressure’s bad influence. The different aspects of the middle school student’s life (represented by the characters: Pimples, Braces, BO, Homework and Drama) go on a secret mission of self-discovery. In the end, the student uncovered his true values, and the disguised character (Peer Pressure) realized that he can also be good.

The team’s Pre-Crypted Message was the moral of their story: Each person is an encrypted puzzle. Include and value every unique piece to decipher a real picture of you. This message was hidden in five different objects using different methods of cryptography and steganography. The team’s Insta-Crypted Message used a 24-wheel cipher that could create 16 septillion combinations.

Their gadget was the middle school itself, which performed the unexpected task of decrypting and transforming the characters. As characters entered the gadget, wheels would turn, lights would blink, pom-poms would shoot off, and a “coo-coo clock” type device would pop out.

The team used the pro-con method to make all of their decisions. They never accepted their first idea without contrasting it against other possibilities. The team also learned to celebrate design failures. Every failure was a chance to make the design better, and everything on stage was at least their third design effort.

Team Name: Acrophobic Mountain Climbers
DI Affiliate: Illinois
Level: Middle
Team Members: Brandon, Kyle, Nick, Zach, Aidan and Zac
Team Managers: Scott & Anne

Synopsis: The team’s performance was about a secret spy mission where the 14-year-old protagonist, Oscar, goes on an adventure around London, England to find his father who had abandoned him. Before Oscar can find his father, he becomes involved in a secret spy mission to stop the evil villain, Dr. Donald, from using his voter fraud machine to manipulate the outcome of the British parliamentary elections. Oscar and a Scientist friend decrypt a series of codes and ciphers which lead them to the villain’s lair, where he comes face-to-face with the two villains. Oscar quickly learns that the two villains are actually his long-lost father and his Uncle who had been the main father figure in his life.

After Oscar foils the villains’ plan and thinks that he saved the world, the audience is treated to one final secret plot twist—Oscar’s father reveals that he and Oscar’s uncle are not actually villains, but rather the entire adventure was a test for Oscar to see if he was ready to join them as part of the British Spy Agency (BSA). Oscar’s life is transformed as he is both reunited with his father and he becomes a spy in the BSA.

The entire story took place on a rotating stage where the team used retractable backdrops and multiple rotations of the stage to place the characters in and around key London landmarks. To decipher the Insta-Crypted Message, the team developed and built a cryptography machine with more than 176 billion key combinations, which enhanced the logic from the German Enigma machine from WWII. The Pre-Crypted Message was hidden using a unique 66-symbol coding scheme that not only enciphered 26 letters but also included codes for the 40 most common words (cribs) to make their encryption significantly more difficult to decrypt.

The team’s ability to research and enhance existing encryption methods, along with its passion and competency to build complex props that use multiple scientific principles to accomplish tasks, proved to be a winning combination.

Team Name: Crazy Horns
DI Affiliate: Poland
Level: Secondary
Team Members: Joanna S., Zuzanna M., Klaudia Ż., Oliwia P. and Grzegorz K.
Team Manager: Kamila Woźnica

Story: Red Riding Hood was the inspiration for our team’s story. Capie was sent by her father (Disguised Character) to Grandma’s with a Basket. During her adventure, Capie encounters various riddles and puzzles which she has to solve in order to continue her journey. She is accompanied by Mr. Wolf, whom she meets along the way. Mr. Wolf turns out to be Capie’s father who was testing whether she can join the secret organization of agents which resides in GRANDMA (GReat AND Mysterious Agency).

Pre-Crypted Message: “basket is”
To make decoding possible, Capie needs two tiles made of plexiglass rods. She finds them during her adventure—the first one near a road sign, the second one near a spring. These two tiles held in front of a specially prepared inscription on GRANDMA’s door reveal a previously coded message which helps her to get into GRANDMA. We used our knowledge about the physics field of optics.

Insta-Crypted Message:
For the Insta-Crypted Message, the team transformed the binary code and used chemistry methods, detecting the chemical nature of a substance with the use of indicator paper. As an equivalent of ‘1’ in the binary code, we attributed a base (solution of bicarbonate of soda) and to ‘0’ we attributed an acid (lemon juice).

The Gadget: Capie’s Basket was the key to Grandma’s.

Check out their performance below:


Team Name: DI Area 51
DI Affiliate: 
Team Members: Casey K., Hannah M., Meredith C. and Liam M.
Team Managers: Christie Kassal & John Carlile

Synopsis: For their seventh and final year together as a team, DI Area 51 put another creative spin on their solution. Instead of a typical secret mission with spies and classic codes, they presented a story (to scale) about Barbies, Wheel of Fortune and a surprise proposal.

It was just another day for Reporter Barbie (whose costume was made entirely of newspaper) and Flight Attendant Barbie, until they opened their makeup compacts and began to powder their faces. Hidden inside, however, is a huge Wheel of Fortune. A G.I. Joe suddenly appears and explains that they’ve been chosen to play Wheel of Fortune together, but the game is a little different. The category of the game is “Cryptography” and instead of blank tiles on the board, there are strange symbols. The Barbies begin to play. Reporter Barbie keeps getting lucky with her guesses; Flight Attendant Barbie quickly cracks the code but keeps landing on Bankrupt and Lose a Turn for some reason. Another G.I. Joe appears and takes over hosting while the other leaves. The Barbies finally decode the message, which reads “Marry me, Barbie?” The original G.I. Joe re-enters at this point and reveals his true identity—Ken! He then explains his lengthy surprise proposal to Reporter Barbie and how he rigged the wheel so that Flight Attendant Barbie couldn’t win. Reporter Barbie happily says yes to his Ring Pop proposal and they all lived happily ever after (almost).

The Wheel of Fortune disguised as a compact served as the team’s unique Gadget, which was mechanically engineered with a pulley system so that it would always stop where the team wanted it to. Ken, disguised as G.I. Joe, was the team’s Disguised Character, disguised by costuming, acting and a vocal change. The team adapted the Pigpen code to use with their Pre-Crypted Message on the board; meanwhile, they employed methods of steganography in their Insta-Crypted Message. Their Team Choice Elements were Reporter Barbie’s custom newspaper costume and a team-designed and engineered microphone that lit up and sounded for correct and incorrect answers.

Check out their performance below:


Fine Arts Challenge (Vanished!)

For the Fine Arts Challenge, teams had to research the meaning, roles and uses of colors and present a story about how the disappearance of a color changes the world. Teams had to include a colorful character that was involved with the color’s disappearance, as well as integrate a vanishing act that used technical theater methods.In addition, teams had to create and present two Team Choice Elements that showed of their interests, skills, areas of strength, and talents.

Team Name: Smooth Criminals
DI Affiliate: Ohio
Level: Elementary
Team Members: Emma H., Presley H., Lilly P., Jensen K. and Audrey M.
Team Managers: Liberty Huther

Synopsis: Our team’s solution focused on the real life challenges that kids today have in being overscheduled. They showcased their colorful character Michael, who is being pressured by her athletic coaches, music and dance teachers, and art teacher. In order to pull this incredible performance off, the girls researched multiple fine arts. Michael becomes Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Michael Jackson and Michaelangelo, before realizing its okay to just be “Michael.”

First, they studied the music and dance of Michael Jackson. They learned how to use Audacity, sound editing software, to create a remix of their favorite Michael Jackson songs. They studied the choreography and dance moves of Michael Jackson and then used that knowledge to create original choreography for their music. They even designed costumes to bring the Michael Jackson scene to life! We get to see the Jackson 5 era, “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal.”

During the Michaelangelo scene, they wanted to bring famous artworks to life. They studied famous artists and learned to recreate their styles. They used this knowledge to make reproductions of the artists’ most famous works on the skirts of their dresses. When they wear the dresses, they literally become the art in a museum.

In addition, the team spent a significant amount time studying the color red and its meanings. They explored the engineering and science of light and color, particularly light paths and saturation. They used power tools and hand tools to build an incredible 3-D backdrop that lights up as well as three huge glowing towers (inspired by Chinese lanterns) that represented the three colors in Michael’s life. As the red disappeared, Michael had less and less energy. When the red returned, she was herself again.

Smooth Criminals had so much fun putting together this solution. They all attend different schools; however, they have formed the most amazing friendships. Their Team Manager, Liberty Huther, said, “Team Smooth Criminals is an incredible group of young ladies! I am so happy for their accomplishments and am so proud of them for all they have learned this year.”

Team Name: E.I.E.I Octopi
DI Affiliate: Oregon
Level: Middle
Team Members: Isaac D., Kadyn E., Quinn S., Delaney C., Ellen D.and Ty P.
Team Managers: Jodi Dodd and Roberta Eves

Synopsis: What if everything green disappeared in a haunted mansion, including all the money??? To solve the Challenge, the team designed and built a two-story drivable mansion powered by two independent motors that were controlled like a tank. The mansion was welded using scrap steel and then surfaced with recycled and reused lumber. Their disappearing act consisted of eight homemade electromagnetics that made a “will” disappear at the flick of a switch. The stage was wired carefully with an intricate lighting system that made the color green disappear completely from the set. It also had a linear motor-powered puppet theater, which rose from the living room hearth like an automatic television. The colorful, rainbow clue characters had hand-sewn costumes with special details made out of recycled items such as spoons, playing cards, and sheets. Their presentation was about characters who arrived at the mansion for the reading of a will, and much to their surprise, the will and everything green in the mansion, including their green feelings and green energy, disappeared. But don’t worry! They successfully restored the color green back to the mansion just in time. The team was thrilled to make the top five in both the Fine Arts and Show & Tech Challenges.

Check out their Fine Arts performance below:


They also won fifth place in Show & Tech with performance below:


You can follow the team here.

Team Name: Not Your Average Punch Party
DI Affiliate: Iowa
Level: Secondary
Team Members: Alista W., Loreena H., Phillip W., Drew S. and Caleb M.
Team Managers: Mark Wilkins and Carol Chesnutt

Synopsis: “For the crayon, by the crayon, and of the crayon – who knew communism could be so colorful and creative?”

The team’s musical theater skit, with original lyrics, music and dance, was about crayons (and Alan the human) who are citizens of the Union of Communist Crayon Republics, or UCCR. The story begins with the current chairman of the Union, Scarlet Red, giving a speech extolling the virtues of equality. Happy citizens come out and the speech transitions into a musical number that begins to hint at a larger theme of the skit—equality is something artificial Scarlet is holding in place. Scarlet goes into an elevator and her two advisers, Alan and Indigo, have a musical number about their visions for when they might someday lead the Union. Alan has a solo in which he expresses feeling restricted and discontent and also powerless to change anything. When the elevator malfunctions and Alan accidentally kills Scarlet (the disappearance of the color), he and Indigo take over the Union and discuss plans. Alan realizes that he is unique in his ability to think innovatively about the future of the nation, and he and Indigo conclude that they are not in fact equal as Scarlet had always led them to believe. The color scarlet red represents communism, and when Scarlet physically disappears in the illusion of an elevator crash, the illusion of equality disappears and is replaced with Alan’s Social Darwinist capitalism.

The Colorful Character is Alan. In a world where people are literally anthropomorphic colors with over-the-top, characterized personalities, what makes Alan distinctive is his mediocrity. By human standards, Alan is dull and down-to-earth, but it is those very qualities which make him stand out in the Union of Communist Crayon Republics.

The Vanishing Act, occurring when Scarlet dies in an elevator crash, used computer interaction as the technical method. The illusion of an elevator falling is created through two motors, a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a breadboard, wires, a winch, a home-made lever and a battery. This mechanism drops the ceiling of the elevator while Scarlet is hidden safely inside a trap-door compartment, effectively making her disappear. The set also included a rotating miniature silhouette cityscape and was enhanced by a professional-quality surrealist landscape on an unusual convex frame.

In addition to taking first place in their Challenge level, the team was the recipient of a DaVinci award, which honors teams who most clearly demonstrate the spirit of adventurous risk in their Challenge solutions.

Technical Challenge (Show & Tech)

For the Technical Challenge, teams had to create a performance that included an opening act and a headlining act, as well as a team-built stage that could move a team member from one location to another. Teams had to enhance each act with a technical effect designed to amaze their audiences. In addition, teams had to create and present two Team Choice Elements that showed of their interests, skills, areas of strength, and talents.

Team Name: Super Dupers
DI Affiliate: Indiana
Level: Secondary
Team Members: Ben M., Sean W., Silvana G., Gabby P., Adam F., Louise H. and Jenna B.
Team Managers: Brian Mann, Greg Fullhart and Tracy Gold

Synopsis: The team’s story takes place inside a kingdom of gears, clocks, puppets and music. This world is ruled by a mechanical clock king who is served by three dancers and three knights. The stage for the performance is a giant ring of rotating planetary gears.

The planetary gear stage has a ring gear that is ten feet in diameter. There are three planet gears that are four feet in diameter, on which team members perform and move. Each gear moves around the ring while rotating individually 360 degrees. The gear system is driven by the central gear, which is powered by a dump truck cover motor. The team created the gear system in a CAD program and used a CNC router to cut the wood.

The Opening Act was a dance performed on the stage of planetary gears to the tune of “Clocks” by Coldplay, played on a team-built music box. During the dance, three dancers used a tesla coil to illuminate fluorescent light bulbs on the Clock King located on the central gear.

The tesla coil was one of the team’s Team Choice Elements. It was wired by the team and attached to a pipe to use as a wand. It sent electricity through two coils and created a magnetic field that excited the gasses in the bulbs to make them illuminate. It was paired with an automated clock king automaton puppet that moved its arms and legs using a cam system. The puppet’s crown contained bulbs that were lit using the tesla coil.

The team’s music box was a scaled-up version of a small music box and used screws that rotated on a cranked pipe. The screws hit tensioned mallets that hit notes on a xylophone to produce the song, “Clocks.” This was the team’s opening Tech Effect.

The Headlining Act was a tale of knights that were on a quest to save their kingdom. It was told in the form of a poem and the knights performed actions as described in the poem. In the end, when the kingdom is saved, a firework display was activated. The entire performance was accompanied by a team member playing the blues on a stand-up bass.

The knights were hand-crafted marionettes made from foam and wood and were the team’s second Team Choice Element. They were attached to the operating handle via strings. They performed actions, such as walking and waving, using the handles and strings. They could also pick up swords using magnets in their hands. Each puppet was hand-painted with a gear design to match the stage. The puppets and their puppeteers also performed and rotated on the stage of gears.

The fireworks display was created using over 500 multi-colored LED lights that were individually soldered. The lights were controlled by an Arduino board coded to display the firework pattern. The LEDs were soldered into 54 different circuits to be controlled by the Arduino. This was used in the ending celebration and was the team’s Tech Effect for the Headlining Act.

Check out their Global Finals performance below:

Improvisational Challenge (3-Peat)

For the Improvisational Challenge, teams had to create and present three improvisational skits from the same story prompt, as well as present each skit in a different performance genre. Teams had to include a different stock character in each skill and each their presentations with props.

Team Name: Still Thinking
DI Affiliate: Wisconsin
Level: Middle
Team Members: Ben L., Jack B., Evan H., John T., Daniel D., Luca F. and Angelo G.
Team Managers: Jennifer Litzau and Bladen Burns

Synopsis: The story prompt for Global Finals was the stock character was given a cell phone with unlimited charge and also the stock character could not stop jumping. This story prompt was then performed by a superhero in a medical drama genre, a director in a documentary, and an optimist in a memoir. Ultimately, by the last performance, any person using the cell phone would catch a disease from its supercharge that caused them to jump uncontrollably.

The performances were super fun and the excitement and energy from the members of Still Thinking had the audience and Appraisers in stitches!


Thank you to all of our teams that participated this past season! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date with all things Destination Imagination.