Congrats to Our Global Finals 2016 Special Award-Winning Teams!

By: Tina Shaffer

In addition to scoring a team’s Challenge solution at Global Finals, Appraisers award teams and/or team members in a variety of areas including outstanding design and engineering, creativity, spirit, teamwork, risk taking, and those who go above and beyond to make an extraordinary impact beyond a local community. This year, our Appraisers gave special awards, including the Renaissance Award, the Da Vinci Award and the Torchbearer Award, to 33 outstanding teams at Global Finals 2016.

Award Descriptions:


On our journey, we sometimes encounter exceptional travelers who entertain and enlighten us along the way. The Renaissance Award recognizes those among us who demonstrate extraordinary amounts of effort and preparation in their solutions or outstanding skill in engineering, design or performance. While the destination is creativity, these fellow travelers make the journey itself memorable.


The paths we follow on our journeys were once uncharted and unknown – until someone took a bold step in a new direction and paved a way for us to follow. To solve our Challenges, imagination, creativity, originality and courage are required. We honor those individuals and teams who most clearly demonstrate that spirit of adventurous risk in their solutions – those who most creatively traveled to reach truly new and unique destinations. The DaVinci Award is named to honor one of humanity’s greatest creative thinkers, Leonardo Da Vinci.


This award honors teams and/or individuals whose solutions have extraordinary impact in and beyond their local communities.

Congratulations to the following teams:

Team: 119-59387, Florence Sawyer School, Massachusetts
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Middle Level
Award: Da Vinci – Who knew a comb could make crickets come alive? Integration was key, and this team was a locksmith!

This team had the Appraisers wondering where all the crickets were hiding during their Presentation. The creative use of materials had the Appraisers feeling like they were sitting in a pond and watching water bugs, praying mantises and crickets in their natural habitat. The cricket costume not only visually transformed the team member, but by placing hidden hair combs in each wing to make noise, the cricket came alive. The Presentation was incredibly integrated with the Structure and musical elements. Great job!

Team: 185-83968, Chongqing Yudaishan ES, China
Challenge: The Meme Event – Elementary Level
Award: Torchbearer – The team’s significant impact created harmonious relationships among neighbors in multiple provinces.

The team improved the quality of relationships among members of their community by creating a message that became analog-viral. A Chinese character was given new meaning in this process, which helped to spread their message of sensitivity, inclusiveness, harmony, selflessness, and caring. Through the team’s community event they expanded beyond their own community into a much larger region, eventually touching the lives of more than 3,000 people with their message.

Team: 122-94027, Holly Homeschool/Blue Tacos, Michigan
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Elementary Level
Award: Da Vinci – Under the watchful eye of a special tree, the team’s story followed characters through joy, loss, winning and fear.

This team took us on an emotional journey by showing the joys and sorrows of growing old through the life of a tree. The story, told under the watchful eye of the tree, followed the other characters through joy, loss, winning and fear. The tree inspired the characters with messages of hope and empowerment. The tree was constructed with precision from surprising materials and left the appraisal team mesmerized.

Team: 750-48029, Frisco ISD GT Program, Texas
Challenge: The Meme Event – Secondary Level
Award: Da Vinci- The team had a creative approach using train cars to show how music takes Alzheimer’s patients down memory lane.

Chug-a Chug-a Cho-Choo! This team’s Presentation rode into the station full of creativity as the team presented about the ways music can benefit Alzheimer’s patients. Train set pieces transformed to reveal pictures and words about the team’s work. Plastic heads lit up in different colors to show how Alzheimer’s patients’ brains and emotions are affected by music from different time periods. From singing and dancing to lights and a transforming train, there were surprises around every corner. Each unique detail of the team’s Presentation gave a sense of what the team had learned and did about music for Alzheimer’s patients.

Team: 147-62291, Inflatable Falling Stars, Washington
Challenge: The Meme Event – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – Outstanding engineering of a 3D meme kept the water flowing for cancer patients.

Picture water flowing to water bottles for cancer patients. Now picture that happening in a 3-dimensional meme! This team’s Project involved providing water to cancer patients at the hospital to support the patients’ emotional and physical needs. The team designed a meme that showed this process with actual flowing water. This team’s meme went above and beyond with its unique integration of technical effects.

Team: 129-27024, Kloefkorn Elementary, Nebraska
Challenge: The Meme Event – Elementary Level
Award: Da Vinci – The team’s “poetic” use of a software program helped to create an impactful meme to encourage literacy.

The integration of information about the Nebraskan poet William Kleofkorn into the team’s meme was unique and intriguing. The team’s meme effectively utilized the face of William Kloefkorn to present information about the community event, which encouraged literacy among local students. The outline of the poet’s face and his bottle-brush mustache were formed entirely by words about the team’s Project and the titles of his poetry. This imaginative meme truly inspired the Appraisal Team.

Team: 750-25712, Academy of Science and Technology, Texas
Challenge: Get a Clue – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team’s outstanding humor, acting, music and costuming made us laugh our legs off!

When Mona Lisa’s eyebrows went missing, DaVinci’s chisel, paintbrush, and charcoal stood up to help solve the crime. Was it the Vitruvian Man with 4 arms and 4 legs? The stained glass from the Sistine Chapel? The statue David? Through a stunning a capella song and amazing performance quality, the clues were revealed, but all decided that Mona Lisa looks better without the eyebrows anyway. We love when art appreciates art, especially when it makes us laugh our legs off!

Team: 120-62790, Bel Air High School, Maryland
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Secondary Level
Award: Da Vinci – #NeedABellHop? #SpinningPigLuggageMover

This team found a way to wire up a bell hop cart to move on its own using 3 pressure switches and miles of wire. They also found a way to stop the cart just short of running anyone over all on its own! AND IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH…. it had a full pig on a rotisserie in the back. great job!

Team: 185-77313, Shanghai Datong High School, China
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Secondary Level
Award: Da Vinci – The team’s ultimate kitchen set was amazing. It played a guitar and a drum in an innovative and breathtaking way.

This kitchen prop was amazing! Not only did it play a guitar by using a ceiling fan, it also played a drum and literally lit the faces of the Appraisers from the word go! It was breathtaking, innovative and worthy of this award.

Team: 138-50340, Out of the Box Kids, Pennsylvania
Challenge: The Meme Event – Middle Level
Award: Torchbearer – The team’s Project for 10,000 people had a far-reaching impact that addressed hunger.

Connecting across three states that are spread up and down the East Coast of the United States, this team went above and beyond in their outreach to provide canned goods to local charities. The food donations generated by their Project reached 10,000 people throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida. This impact was in part due to their skills at couponing, which saved them about $9,000 as they gathered food donations for the local charities. This team’s impact has been noticed by others, as the team members and the team have been given multiple philanthropy awards during their work. This team’s work has had a widespread impact on those who need help getting food. It is above and beyond what would be expected.

Team: 130-05679, Hollis/Brookline DI, New Hampshire
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – Structure support creates beautiful melody. One full leg of the structure was a hand-carved flute.

This team took a risk and made one of its Structure’s three main supports into a hand-carved flute. It was not an added on piece, but an integral part of the Structure. It sounded beautiful, and was played beautifully as well. Their Structure was also able to hold a significant amount of weight, while still mashing music and Structure building together. The Appraisal Team felt the team fully understood the true concept of musical integration with the Structure.

Team: 148-73384, Lake Geneva Schools, Wisconsin
Challenge: Pace of Change – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – This team created a solution with an impressive team-made clutch, bowling ball casters, and a catapulted winch anchor.

This team’s unique and innovative solution impressed the Appraisers with a vehicle that utilized handmade, axel-less casters made from bowling balls and a custom-made clutch. This team also designed a catapult that fired an anchor from the vehicle, sending it flying across the site to accurately reach a mounting point. Once secured, they then used their team-designed clutch to engage the vehicle’s winch, allowing it to reel itself across the floor on the bowling-ball casters.

Team: 105-06030, SRSRC, California
Challenge: Get a Clue – Elementary Level
Award: Da Vinci – This team crafted a unique and compelling solution symbolizing cultural diversity through a Rubik’s Cube.

Using their firsthand knowledge of cultural diversity, this team’s perfectly synchronized performance beautifully explored the ever-evolving challenges of diversity and equality in the United States. Their story of many vibrant and diverse cultures tied together visually and thematically with a tale about a Rubik’s Cube and its revolving sets of colors. This team eloquently reminded us that just as a Rubik’s Cube won’t work if the pieces aren’t aligned, neither will society.

Team: 130-77937, Highbridge Hill Elementary, New Hampshire
Challenge: Pace of Change – Elementary Level
Award: DaVinci – The team had ingenious design, concept creation, and a highly original approach to the Challenge.

This team’s solution had everyone bouncing with delight as its comical and unusual approach became clear to the audience. Two team members rode a pair of large bouncing exercise balls and a foam pad in the same way a kangaroo carries her joey. The team blew the Challenge beyond the boundaries by undulating their Vehicle back and forth across the site. This team caught the eyes of all who bore witness to their unforgettable solution, and truly exemplified what DI is all about.

Team: 750-00176, Advanced Academics Department, Texas
Challenge: Get a Clue – Elementary Level
Award: Renaissance – A mystical Presentation with a termite mound that was so realistic, it was disgusting. We ate it up!

Who knew something so disgusting could be so fun! When this team took the stage, they disappeared into their scenery and became the props! What sprung to life then was a complete mystery of nature. The termite suspect was so real that it creeped out the Appraisers. Every nook and cranny of this team’s Presentation was amazingly integrated — grabbing every ounce of the Appraisers’ attention and teaching everyone things they didn’t know about the tremendous termite. We ate it up!

Team: 114-95286, Adler Park School, Illinois
Challenge: Pace of Change – Elementary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team created complex and reliable engineering with a rustic approach.

Stomp, stop, and roll! This team’s solution was for one and all! A complex chain and gear system plus intricate woodwork and construction caught everyone’s eye. The team’s imagination and thorough understanding of the Challenge led to a purpose-driven vehicle with components that all had clear intent and meaning. Each component served to propel the team forward, and built-in vehicle transition systems led to rapid, reliable changes that kept the team moving at a steady pace. The vehicle included safety systems and a soft seat for the rider. This team’s solution showed that there isn’t a need for high-tech gizmos and gadgets to stand out from the competition!

Team: 171-92939, JANG SUNG Elementary School, KASI – South Korea
Challenge: Get a Clue – Elementary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team used recycled materials to create an immaculately intricate replica of a building from the Gyeong-Bok palace.

This team created an immaculate replica of a building from the Gyeong-Bok palace of the Joseon dynasty to transport the audience and Appraisers to 1445 in Korea. But what appeared simple from a distance became an incredibly detailed use of recycled materials upon closer inspection. The team carefully cut plastic cups for texture on the roof, utilized cardboard and paper to create an intricate screen, and suspended one thousand tiny paper cranes on fishing line to create an invisible back wall. The cranes, made in Knoxville, were each crafted from an individual candy wrapper. The team must have eaten a lot of sugar! The overall effect of this teams’ precise work created a trip back in time that left the Appraisers stunned for days.

Team: 105-56460, Thomas Hart Middle School, California
Challenge: Get a Clue – Middle Level
Award: Da Vinci – This team took a risk to portray the hatred and hope of 1960’s America with passion, eloquence and grace.

This team took an enormous risk by tackling acts of violence and controversial topics to potray a dark time in American history. Inspired by recent headlines and recent Supreme Court decisions, they transported the audience on a journey through pivotal events in the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. When the team humorously began aboard their scale replica of a 1960’s VW “hippie” bus, no one expected the deep, yet respectful retrospective that was to come. From the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to George Wallace’s speech on segregation, they brought the time period to life using a versatile, elevated prop piece that transformed from an innocent bookcase to a platform of hatred to a church pulpit which promoted equality. Completing the imagery was a mosaic made from 5,000 individually-placed beads, depicting Dr. King! It was apparent that this team completely immersed themselves in history. In the end, the team’s risk-taking paid off; the audience was left speechless by this compelling performance.

Team: 185-88726, ES of Renmin University of China, China
Challenge: Get a Clue – Elementary Level
Award: Renaissance – Outstanding engineering used common products to transport the audience to Da Vinci’s treasure house.

Leonardo Da Vinci would have been proud! This team truly captured his innovative spirit to transport the audience to his treasure house. Using pneumatic pistons, electromagnets, pulleys, weights and other simple machines, this team crafted a Rube Goldberg device that would operate three sequential doors by popping balloons to release a rotating axle. Their TechniClue used hand-painted medical cloth around two drive shafts to simultaneously generate sound, movement and light to unveil the clue and solve the mystery. Through incredible engineering of common products, this team created such a grand effect that it left the audience and Appraisers awestruck.

Team: 119-12314, Lynnfield Public Schools, Massachusetts
Challenge: Get a Clue – University Level
Award: Renaissance – The astonishing use of architectural and design details from Victorian times created a monstrous, yet minimal, set.

Make yourself right at home! This team transformed our Presentation Site into an elegant Victorian mansion. Of course, no well-to-do home from that time period would be complete without all the important fixtures: a fireplace, a hand-printed carpet, a beautifully landscaped entranceway, and even a stunning chandelier dangling from the 15ft tall ceiling. The attention to detail was astounding! The team’s ingenious design without walls allowed the audience to be privy to all of the action contained within the manor. Thanks to incredible engineering and creativity in the team’s ambitious design, everyone in the room felt that they were truly at the scene of the crime.

Team: 153-84988, York House School, British Columbia
Challenge: Get a Clue – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – A regally executed Elizabethan performance used a minimalist set, outstanding acting and stunning makeup and costumes.

Long live the Queen! Elizabeth I took such a firm command of the stage that no large set pieces were needed to transport us to 16th Century England. Through the clever use of minimal props and scenery, incredible acting, and larger-than-life makeup and historical costumes, every element of the Challenge was regally executed. The Appraisal team almost lost their heads over this team’s attention to detail in their use of Elizabethan language and fashions. The Appraisers only wish they could coronate this team themselves.

Team: 750-72927, Frisco ISD GT Program, Texas
Challenge: Get a Clue – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – Excellence in performance, set design, staging and storytelling brought a vandal on the Pony Express to justice.

It was a fast-paced search for the vandal who struck the Pony Express in 1860’s Missouri! This team’s fluid, nearly-flawless Presentation included a pony made of over 800 braided plastic shopping bags, an “exploding” barrel TechniClue that revealed the Mystery Maker, and an original square dance. Their set took us from an elevated stable loft to a town setting, complete with retractable jail cells (made from measuring tapes) and a saloon with a chandelier that fell from the ceiling. By using different elevations, the depth of the stage, and cleverly-placed props, this team allowed the audience to become totally immersed in their tale. The team demonstrated outstanding research of simple Technical Methods and used ordinary household items to create impressive set pieces. Every moment in the Presentation was choreographed and timed to deliver a seamless Presentation from start to finish.

Team: 147-41628, Conchairto, Washington
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Secondary Level
Award: Da Vinci – The Structure was built to play notes when air from a bellows passed through the 4 corner posts. It was musical magic.

This team designed and built a Structure that was everything this Challege was written to inspire. Their Structure was designed to sit on top of a bellows where the air was passed through the four corner posts to produce individual notes. This enabled the team to play an original piece of music that had a direct role in their Presentation. It was creative and wonderful!

Team: 119-42172, Stoughton Public Schools, Massachusetts
Challenge: The Meme Event – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team created an emotional story about the plight of homeless veterans that integrated great costumes and props.

This team’s costumes, props, and a live-action meme were infused with moving symbolism and careful engineering, helping the team to represent the struggles homeless veterans face when returning to civilian life. A newspaper suit was worn by a man who had been homeless and slept on newspapers but was now back up on his feet. A clock that righted itself using a motor, pulley system, and remote control, showed how you can get time back that has “gotten away.” The entire Presentation was smooth and well-polished, leaving a lasting impression about the plight of homeless veterans and how they can be helped.

Team: 185-76333, Yuyao Youth Palace, China
Challenge: Musical Mashup – Elementary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team used a tubing system and valves to ingeniously deflate dark clouds while inflating flowers and a tree.

This team demonstrated the simple yet ingenious solution of a closed system of tubing and valves that allowed flowers and a tree grow on command. The story illustrated the defeat of pollution by deflating dark clouds while inflating flowers and a tree to show the recovery of the planet. It was a meaningful message displayed in a simple and elegant solution.

Team: 114-82312, Libertyville DI, Illinois
Challenge: Pace of Change – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance – A self-governing, primal, hissing pneumatic beast lurched across the floor with unrelenting power and mechanical menace.

Imagine a primal, hissing, pneumatic beast lurching across the Presentation Area floor towards you. This self-governing vehicle was equipped with ratcheting knuckle joints that snapped back into place with each step, enabling its unrelenting progress. The attention to mechanical detail showcased the team’s command of industrial design that absolutely geeked us out.

Team: 115-64032, Hamilton Southeastern, Indiana
Challenge: In Plain Sight – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance –  The team took the audience on a flight of engineering fancy, designing custom hinges and showcasing lifelike flight.

This team took the audience on a flight of engineering fancy in this modern take on an unforgettable classic. The Appraisers were wowed by this team’s HIPSTER, a magnificent bird with individually articulated feathers that flew across the stage with the grace expected of a professional production. The Egyptian nightjar bird presented the illusion of effortless flight through simple construction, but with ingenious and meticulous engineering. The bird’s head compressed and extended, its body shrunk and grew, and its feathers flapped. This small but intricate bird’s animatronics were truly impressive. This team meticulously cut and applied each of the bird’s countless feathers. The winged phenome used a compression system with wire, cardboard and fishing line, and while those items seem simple individually, the team’s precise engineering amounted to an incredible impression on the audience. But this team’s engineering soared to loftier heights as well. This team’s Camouflaged Object, an Egyptian-style obelisk, awed the Appraisers when the “stone” obelisk transformed into a wooden door. The team manufactured four wooden triangles that joined to create a rectangle, which was in turn attached by bolts to a frame. The team designed and created their own wood and metal hinge system to facilitate the transition. Again, this team applied simple and pragmatic construction to improve reliability, but the engineering behind this team’s solution was simply sublime. The hinge was designed in such a way as to permit 360-degree rotation (in three directions) upon the activation of a single trigger. The rest of the transition was thanks to gravity. The team explicitly relied on the force of gravity to permit the rotating triangles to reflect downwards, creating a sudden and striking solution that was plainly successful.

The team also applied its engineering, design and construction skills in conveying dramatic elements of their Presentation. Not content to simply permit the gorgeous chandelier to employ glass marbles to create the desired refraction effect, this team relied on thermodynamic principles to crack the glass marbles while permitting the marbles to remain intact. The team also applied impressive engineering skills to the smallest details, such as showing the character Ramona’s shadow crossing in front of a backlit window.

Team: 142-03508, Milan Special School District, Tennessee
Challenge: In Plain Sight – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance – The team had a jaw-dropping black & white scene from the 20s that was amazing in its polish, finesse and creativity.

This team provided a jaw-dropping Presentation that we didn’t want to end. The acting, singing and script kept the audience and Appraisers totally enthralled with perfect rhythm and flow. This spectacular black and white depiction of a scene in the 1920’s was phenomenal in its polish and finesse. Makeup, applied to each individual, echoed back to days of early motion pictures. The creative use of materials could be found in the scenery, props and costumes. The appearance was that of true stage costumes, from the skirts, aprons and hats down the details of the ties and feathers. We were surprised to find that the costumes were actually created from recycled materials! The evidence of true preparation and dedication that was necessary to pull off such a fantastic performance was inspiring.

Team: 120-82879, Linganore High School, Maryland
Challenge: Close Encounters – Secondary Level
Award: DaVinci – The team went beyond the intent of the challenge by making the bold choice to reduce the already confined space.

This team went above and beyond the intent of the challenge by making the bold choice to reduce the already confined space. This team captured our attention the moment they stepped on stage and kept it throughout, using comedic timing and outstanding teamwork. The way the team members understood and interacted with each other along with their understanding of the Challenge made this Close Encounter a joyful experience for all.

Team: 105-68315, Reed College/Princeton U, California
Challenge: Close Encounters – University Level
Award: Renaissance – In under three minutes, this team created a complete improv musical performance that almost brought us to tears.

In under 3 minutes, this team created a complete improvisational musical performance that took us through a journey of emotions. From beginning to end, they orchestrated their talents and passions through spectacular song and dance.

Team: 123-25166, Delano Community Education, Minnesota
Challenge: Pace of Change – Secondary Level
Award: Renaissance – This team combined the changing of seasons with the organic aesthetics and rolling motion of their huge wheeled vehicle.

Rather than a vehicle with wheels, this vehicle WAS a wheel. The operator was suspended in the center of a freely moving cradle with an exoskeleton of finely tuned parts all working in concert. This moving mechanical masterpiece was capable of both smooth revolutions and a steampunk-esque walk. It married organic form with fluid motion. The vehicle rolled as steadily as the seasons turned on their timed lazy susan carousel located nearby. Each season was spotlighted with an elegant combination of mechanics, electronics, and hydraulics. Every aspect of this performance was meticulously crafted and carefully integrated across the entire solution. This team’s accomplishment would make Leonardo proud.

Team: 138-65365, Homeschool, Sonic Squad, Pennsylvania
Challenge: In Plain Sight – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – This team presented a hilarious ukulele song that elegantly solved the whole Challenge.

This team’s humor carried through their song, which they sang and played throughout most of their Presentation. The lyrics, expression and intonation effortlessly wove together all of the aspects of the Challenge. It was a composition that was not only musically harmonious but will keep us laughing and singing for weeks to come!

Team: 178-24652, Public Junior High School, Poland
Challenge: In Plain Sight – Middle Level
Award: Renaissance – This team masterfully designed costumes that drew audible gasps from the audience.

This team crafted numerous costumes with an attention to detail that was absolutely incredible. No detail was left unconsidered, from the 2 miles of plastic twine painstakingly applied, to their giant moth costume, to the hundreds of hand-made pom-poms on their leprechaun’s pants, to the hand-woven suspenders and matching shoe buttons. This team’s solutions drew audible gasps from the audience and left the Appraisers in awe.