Students Showcase Innovation at Global Finals 2018

Students From 19 Countries Showcase Innovation During Destination Imagination's 19th Annual Global Finals

Destination Imagination (DI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching students the creative process through hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) challenges, concluded its 19th Annual Global Finals event on Saturday with a celebration acknowledging the week’s winners.

More than 1,400 student teams from 38 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces and 19 countries—including Australia, China, Indonesia and Qatar—competed in the 2018 Global Finals tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 23-26. The culmination of a year-long effort, more than 17,000 participants and visitors traveled to the University of Tennessee as teams showcased their unique solutions to challenges in six categories, including Engineering, Scientific, Fine Arts, Technical, Improvisational and Service Learning.

“These students have worked so hard and accomplished so much this year in our annual competition,” said Michele Tuck-Ponder, Interim CEO for Destination Imagination. “When you get more than 8,000 of the brightest young minds in the world putting their talents on display, it really is awe-inspiring. Every year, we get to see the future leaders in STEAM, and I’m always amazed at what they produce.”

Beyond the academic tournament, the event was brimming with activities like an International Block Party, a Costume Ball where students created their costumes using duct tape, and a series of Innovation Labs, Inspiration Sessions and Games. All of the events and workshops that took place at Global Finals aligned with the following education outcomes—celebration, collaboration, cultural exchange, empowerment, and individual growth.

The Winning Teams

Notable winners from the 2018 Global Finals include:

  • Students from Texas placed in a number of categories with about 30 teams finishing in the Top 5. Texas teams achieved high scores in every Challenge category. Among elementary school teams competing in the Fine Arts Challenge, four of the Top 5 teams came from the Longhorn State.
  • Teams from China also performed well, with 10 student teams finishing in the Top 5 in their respective categories.
  • A team from Augustow, Poland was awarded the Project Outreach Torchbearer award for their work with often overlooked students with special needs at a local school in Poland. As part of their Service Learning Challenge, the team held an auction to raise money for new sports safety equipment. They also wrote an inspiring play, which they performed alongside the special needs students.
  • Clever use of a deconstructed microwave and recycled materials led to a DaVinci award for a Nebraska team. They created a fairytale scene complete with the thundering collapse of a tree triggered by lights and repurposed microwave elements.
  • It was the final competition year for veteran Global Finals team from California, Capital Funishment, who finished 9th in their Technical Challenge. The team has finished in the Top 10 in all eight of their trips to Global Finals, including four Championship wins. The team presented a fully autonomous vehicle that could navigate a randomly selected maze using sensors, coding and mathematics.

For the full results of Destination Imagination’s Global Finals 2018, visit

Special Visitors & Partners
Memorable visitors included Knoxville City Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Mason Ramsey—whose yodeling performance in an Illinois Walmart went viral and landed him a record deal—award-winning songwriter and performer Levi Kreis, Young Hearts cover band from Chattanooga, Tennessee and more than 580 event volunteers.

This year’s Global Finals Innovation Expo inspired attendees of all ages with hands-on exhibits featuring cutting-edge technology from organizations like NASA, Oracle Academy and Space Camp.

Student Spotlight Stories

2018 Graduate of the Year
The 2018 Graduate of the Year is Virginia-based high school senior, Myra Richardson. Richardson has participated in Destination Imagination since she was in fifth grade and is now the Team Manager for an elementary level team representing Destination Imagination in Virginia. Richardson will make her way back to Knoxville this fall where she will attend the University of Tennessee to study nuclear engineering.

“DI has taught Myra problem solving, building and designing, engineering, advocating, creative thinking and perseverance,” Myra’s Team Manager Dr. Amy. M. Re said. “I daresay, there is not another program, other than life itself, that can do all that.”

Ohio Team Aids Students in Puerto Rico
As part of their solution to this year’s Service Learning Challenge, a team of fourth-grade students from Terrace Park, Ohio raised funds to send kits containing school supplies, flashlights, toys and personal notes to elementary school students in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The students’ efforts allowed them to send 21 kits to Juanita Garcia Peraza in San Juan.

“We realized we all look at the same moon,” team member Zoe T. said. “We wanted kids who were having trouble to know they had friends out there to help them.”

Austin, Texas Team Helps Homeless Youth
A team from Austin raised more than $2,200 to put together 100 backpacks for homeless youth in its home city. The students filled each backpack with blankets, water bottles, dental hygiene products and first aid kits. The team also bought 300 feminine hygiene products to donate to peers in need.

Wisconsin Team Creates App to Aid Memory Loss Sufferers
A team of 8th graders from Hudson, Wisconsin created an app to help those suffering from memory loss. The students were inspired after one of their family members experienced an illness that impacted their memory. An app user can say the name of the person they would like to call or use keywords like “emergency,” “caretaker” or “911.” The app is available as a free download on Google Play.

Global Finals is the culminating event of the season for Destination Imagination. Each year, more than 150,000 students from 30-plus countries, ranging from kindergarten to university, participate in the nearly year-long challenge program with hopes of advancing to Global Finals. The organization looks forward to planning Global Finals 2019 and celebrating the 20th anniversary of the world’s largest celebration of creativity. For more information about Destination Imagination and what it does year-round to advance learning in the STEAM fields, visit

To view the full press release, click here.